NHS People Plan promises action to address ‘urgent’ shortages

As well as growing staff numbers, the Interim NHS People Plan (see attached PDF below) acknowledges that action is needed to make the health service a better place to work if current challenges are to be overcome.

“I want frontline NHS staff to know that we have heard their concerns about the pressures they face”

Dido Harding

The long-awaited interim NHS People Plan – formerly known as the Workforce Implementation Plan – was published today, setting out a range of measures on staffing.

The 74-page plan, promised by the NHS Long Term Plan in January, includes a chapter on nursing, covering plans for recruitment, education, continuing professional development.

It stated: “There are significant staff shortages across the country in many parts of our workforce; however, shortages in nursing are the single biggest and most urgent we need to address.

“This is partly because of the absolute numbers of current nurse vacancies, but also because nurses form a critical part of the multi-professional team needed to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan, particularly in primary and community care and mental health services,” it added.

Among the immediate actions laid out in the plan to tackle the nursing problems includes funding 5,700 extra hospital and community placements for student nurses this year, and increasing the number of people in nursing associate roles to 7,500.

It also sets out ambitions to increase international nurse recruitment “significantly” and to embark on new campaigns to improve the perception of nursing.

The plan also commits to conducting a “major staff engagement exercise” this summer, led by new chief people officer, Prerana Issar, to help improve the offer to staff in areas such as flexible working and career development.

“The success of the health service is rooted in the incredible people who dedicate themselves around the clock”

Matt Hancock 

More support and development opportunities will be offered to frontline NHS managers “from ward to board” as part of a drive to ”spread a positive, inclusive, person-centred leadership culture” throught the health service. 

Under the new strategy, significant responsibilities for workforce planning will be devolved locally to the emerging integrated care systems.

New models of multi-disciplinary working will be developed to support the NHS Long Term Plan’s ambition to integrate primary and secondary care.

Staff will also be able to access new training to develop their digital skills through an expansion of the NHS Digital Academy in a bid to harness the full potential of technology.

A full NHS People Plan will be released later this year following the government’s next spending review when the total investment available for education and training is due to be confirmed.

NHS Improvement

Dido Harding

Dido Harding

Baroness Dido Harding, chair of NHS Improvement, which has led the development of the plan, said: “This plan clearly acknowledges the workforce challenges the service faces.

“I want frontline NHS staff to know that we have heard their concerns about the pressures they face and we are determined to address them.”

She acknowledged that increasing staff numbers alone was not enough and added: “We need to change the way people work in the NHS to recognise the changing needs of patients and to create a modern, caring and exciting workplace that should be the best place to work in England.

“This will take time but this interim plan sets out a clear direction of travel and commits to the immediate actions available to us,” added Baroness Harding.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said he wanted the NHS to be an employer “to be proud of”. 

”We want to eradicate blame culture, deliver massively improved mental health provision and provide greater protection from violence and harassment,” he said. 

“The success of the health service is rooted in the incredible people who dedicate themselves around the clock and we must show our staff the NHS values them as much as they value their patients,” Mr Hancock added. 

News stories on the interim NHS People Plan