Minister: Workforce chapter of NHS plan was ‘most difficult’

Mr Hammond was addressing the annual conference of the Council of Deans of Health, which acts as a voice for UK university facilities for nursing, midwifery and allied health professions.

“I won’t give away too many secrets but if I say it went through five iterations”

Stephen Hammond

During a question and answer session after his speech, Mr Hammond said: “You will be not be perhaps surprised that the most difficult chapter [of the long-term plan] to write was the workforce chapter.

“I won’t give away too many secrets but if I say it went through five iterations you will understand that getting that right is a key commitment from [health secretary Matt Hancock] and myself.”

The NHS Long Term Plan was released earlier this month and set out a vision for the next 10 years of the health service in England.

The workforce chapter included a promise to increase the number of nursing degree placements, reduce attrition from training and prevent nurses from leaving prematurely once they entered employment.

During his speech, Mr Hammond stressed that retention was a “huge priority” for him in his role, which he has held since November 2018.

He added: “There’s no point in educating the best if we then let their career aspirations wither on the vine, or if they decide those career aspirations are better fulfilled elsewhere, or their career aspirations are undermined by their experience of employment

“As a department and minster, I know there is more work to be done to boost recruitment into health care higher education and then to convert them into the next generation of professionals able to deliver the highest standards of care and support.”

Mr Hammond added that “broadening routes into nursing” remained a focus for the government.

He said the Department of Health and Social Care was “committed” to ensuring the apprenticeship route into the profession continued to play a “major role” in the training system.