Workforce project: Initial analysis of issues facing the provider sector

Trust leaders are increasingly telling us that workforce is now their number one concern. In our July State of the NHS provider sector report, well over half of trust leaders (57%) were “worried” or “very worried” about their current ability to maintain the right numbers of both clinical and non-clinical staff to deliver high-quality care.

Given the scale of the national workforce challenges, NHS Providers is currently undertaking a project to diagnose the workforce issues NHS provider trusts face and to identify solutions to support trusts to recruit and retain the staff they need to deliver safe and high quality care for patients.

Our initial analysis of the workforce challenges affecting the provider sector finds that having enough staff with the right skills is the biggest concern and challenge for NHS organisations. Rising demand, constrained funding and workforce shortages in some staff groups and regions mean that more and more is asked of frontline staff, which has a knock-on effect on retention. The uncertainty caused by Brexit adds another element to these difficulties.

Additional challenges for NHS trusts and foundation trusts include having effective leadership and culture, as research has shown that these are crucial factors to success for NHS organisations. However, NHS leadership capacity and capability is being stretched very thinly and trusts are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain senior leaders.

Finally, responsibility and accountability for workforce is fragmented at the national level and this hinders a credible, coherent approach to supporting trusts to have the staff they need. Robust data, for example on vacancy and retention rates, is still lacking, as well as workforce plans that underpin national policy decisions and enable new models of delivering care.

We are currently developing and writing a further document that will set out what needs to happen next and who needs to do what to tackle the challenges outlined in this initial analysis. This second document will be published in November at our annual conference.

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