Responding to COVID-19: a more flexible NHS workforce

22 October 2020

Innovation and new ways of working have been at the heart of the COVID-19 response says a new report from NHS Providers.

Workforce flexibility in the NHS: utilising COVID innovations focuses on the ways that trusts and frontline staff have adopted new approaches in responding to the pressures of the pandemic.

The outbreak of COVID-19 presented the biggest challenges ever faced by the NHS, placing unprecedented demands on services, equipment, and on staff.

Trusts responded through rapid innovation and change.

This report captures the workforce changes which have had the greatest impact and makes recommendations on key areas to ensure the NHS is able to cope in the long run, as the service faces a second wave of COVID-19 while managing backlogs and dealing with seasonal pressures. It is crucial the NHS acts now to implement learning from the first peak.

The report’s recommendations on six key areas of change are:

  1. Staff wellbeing
  2. Flexibility in staff deployment
  3. Cross-organisational working and regulation
  4. Technology
  5. Making use of new roles
  6. Funding


Launching the report, NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said:

It is truly heartening and impressive to see the speed at which workforce innovations and flexibilities have been implemented in the NHS since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Saffron Cordery    Deputy Chief Executive

“It is truly heartening and impressive to see the speed at which workforce innovations and flexibilities have been implemented in the NHS since the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Our new report urges that these changes be quickly codified into policy and practice, to ensure that valuable improvements secured in the first peak of COVID-19 are not lost.

We know that staff are the beating heart of the NHS, so we must do our best to make sure they are able to do their jobs, supporting their mental and physical wellbeing and protecting them from burnout.

Saffron Cordery    Deputy Chief Executive

“We know that staff are the beating heart of the NHS, so we must do our best to make sure they are able to do their jobs, supporting their mental and physical wellbeing and protecting them from burnout.

“This report highlights the work carried out in response to the disproportionate impact of the virus on Black, Asian and minority ethnic people, including those working in health and care settings. National and local initiatives to address racial inequality in the NHS must empower and protect Black, Asian and minority ethnic people without prescribing “one size fits all” solutions or putting the onus of change on Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff.

“Although it has been inspiring to see the strength and determination of staff during a difficult first wave of the pandemic, funding to ensure the recruitment and retention of NHS staff has never been more vital.

“COVID-19 has forced the pace of change in workforce flexibility. We need to capture and consolidate successful innovation to deal with pressures posed by the virus, and the long term challenges faced by the NHS.”

We use cookies to ensure you have the best possible experience on our website. By continuing we’ll assume that you are happy to receive them. Read our updated privacy and cookie policy. Close