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NHS Workforce Plan puts £2.4bn into training and education


NHS Workforce Plan puts £2.4bn into training and education

The long-awaited NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, published June 30, sets out how the NHS will address existing vacancies, and recruit and retain hundreds of thousands more staff over the next 15 years.

The government has backed the plan with over £2.4 billion to fund additional education and training places over five years on top of existing funding commitments.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard described the Plan as “a once in a generation opportunity to put staffing on a sustainable footing for the years to come”. The Plan focusses on retaining existing talent alongside the biggest recruitment drive in health service history.

For the first time the Plan sets out long term workforce projections. Staffing shortfalls have been an issue since the foundation of the NHS and vacancies now stand at 112,000. The growing and ageing population, coupled with new treatments and therapies, means that without action the gap could grow to 360,000 by 2037, says the NHS.

By 2031 the Long Term Workforce Plan aims to:

  • double medical school training places to 15,000
  • increase the number of GP training places by 50 per cent to 6,000
  • almost double the number of adult nurse training places, with 24,000 more nurse and midwife training places a year.

Details on how the pharmacy workforce will be impacted can be found here.

Taken with retention measures, the NHS claims the Plan could mean the health service has at least an extra 60,000 doctors, 170,000 more nurses and 71,000 more allied health professionals in place by 2036/37.

Advances in technology and treatments mean that staff numbers and roles will change over time so the Plan will be refreshed at least every two years to help meet future requirements. 

By taking advantage of digital and technological innovations, such as AI, robotic process automation and remote monitoring to support the NHS workforce, estimates suggest 44 per cent of all admin work in general practice can be mostly or fully automated.

More training places will be offered through degree apprenticeships so staff can “earn while they learn” – gaining a full degree while ensuring they meet the standards required by the relevant professional regulators, including GMC and NMC. One in six of all training places for clinical staff will be offered through apprenticeships by 2028.

The Plan has been broadly welcomed by NHS organisations, professional bodies and patient groups.

Tase Oputu, the recently elected chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England, said: “Pharmacy leaders have been united in calling for the workforce plan to cover the whole of pharmacy and it is welcome to see this reflected today.

“Pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and wider pharmacy teams will be crucial to reducing health inequalities and supporting the health service of the future so that patients can continue to access the medicines and care they need.

“With pharmacists delivering more clinical services and with growing numbers of pharmacist independent prescribers, it is really positive to see the Plan commit to investing in pharmacy education and training. How this plan is put into practice, backed by long-term funding, will be key to its success.”

Nicola Stockmann, vice president of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK, said: “The Plan is a major milestone and an achievement for all who have campaigned and worked towards this. The delivery through key enablers identified in the plan and how it is subsequently followed up, will be essential for long-term benefits for patients, pharmacy technicians and the entire pharmacy workforce.”

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