Strengthening the healthcare workforce

Clare ChapmanClare Chapman, Director General of Workforce at the Department of Health, has written an article for The Guardian on the opportunity to reshape the whole system for educating and training the healthcare workforce.

Over 1.4 million people work for the NHS in England, and the majority of these are health professionals such as nurses, midwives and doctors who deliver our services. Many more work to support public health, social care and community services. These people are the face of the enduring values of the NHS and the delivery of healthcare services in England. Their skills, commitment, professionalism and dedication are key to improving the health outcomes of the nation.

To deliver safe high quality care to patients requires investment in the highest possible standards of education and training. Every year, nearly £5bn of public money is spent developing the current and future professional workforce. This development is key to ensuring the values and calibre of staff, and is essential if the workforce is to keep pace with advances in healthcare technology.

In December, the Department of Health launched a consultation – Liberating the NHS: Developing the Healthcare Workforce – that outlines a new framework for planning and developing the NHS workforce. The proposed changes will create an education and training system which will be led by those who deliver frontline healthcare services, allowing it to be more responsive to the needs of patients.

But why are we making these changes? We need to ensure that we have a system that is brought up to date to reflect the wider white paper reforms in the NHS, and that is giving employers greater ownership and accountability for planning their own workforce and ensuring greater clinical leadership for the quality of education and training. It is only right that decisions about the workforce are made by those who are working in the GP practices, in the hospitals, within social care or in the community.

This is not a simple task. The consultation asks for a range of views so that the new arrangements can be set up in a way that will meet the medium and long term needs across the wider healthcare sector, including local authorities and social care where an integrated approach of staff, skills and care is needed.

Local authorities will have a key role to play in working with these different partners and local directors of public health to plan and develop the right workforce. Employers will also need to work closely with partners in the higher and further education sector, and will need to understand the longer term needs of those commissioning services to do this effectively.

To support local employers, we are creating a new national body, Health Education England. Health Education England will bring together the interests of healthcare providers, the professions, the commissioners and patients to provide national oversight and support on strategic workforce issues, in a similar way to the NHS Commissioning Board which will support GP consortia in commissioning services.

It is vital that the healthcare professions provide leadership in ensuring the quality of education and training – so that locally and nationally we can all be confident about the standards being achieved. Clinicians will have an important role throughout the new system in promoting high quality education and training, and developing new education programmes and innovative training practices.

This is an opportunity to review and fundamentally reshape the whole system for educating and training the healthcare workforce. We want to hear a wide range of views and encourage interested organisations and their staff to respond and play an active part in helping us to shape it. The consultation closes on 31 March.

You can read and respond to the consultation here.

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