Writing a joint letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee Jeremy Hunt, leaders from the Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund have called for the upcoming NHS Bill to “put in place a system to support better workforce planning”.
In order to achieve this, they supported the inclusion of a clause in the forthcoming bill, which set out several key aspects to achieve greater transparency.
The letter was co-signed by Nigel Edwards, Chief Executive of the Nuffield Trust, Anita Charlesworth, Director of the REAL Centre at the Health Foundation and Richard Murray, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund.
Firstly, they called on the bill to see Health Education England (HEE) publish annually projections, which would be independently verified, for the future supply of the healthcare workforce in England. These would also be compared to a projected demand for the same workforce in England for a 15-year period, consistent with the long-term projections of healthcare spending produced by the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR).
The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care should also hold responsibility for the publication of annual independently verified projections of the future supply of social care workforce in England, compared with the projected demand in England over a 15-year period, consistent with long-term OBR projections on adult social care spending.
The three organisations called for these estimates to be as robust and complete as possible, and as a minimum be set out based on the assumption of constant policy.
Explanatory notes should make clear that the clause will require projections of both headcount and full-time equivalent for the total health and care workforce, in England and for every region, covering those working for voluntary and private providers of health and social care as well as the NHS.
The assumptions underpinning the projections must be published for:
- The workforce flows from and to the other UK countries
- Immigration and outbound migration of the registered professions in healthcare
These again should be both in headcount and full-time equivalent, the letter explained.
At the England level, it called for these projections to individually cover all the regulated professions (social workers, registered nurses, doctors, allied health professionals).
The process for independent verification and a fixed annual date for publication should be in advance, the three organisations explained. Independent verification should meet the relevant standards set out in the National Statistics Authority’s code for official statistics for collecting, preparing, analysing and publishing Government statistics.
Prompted by the opportunity with the upcoming NHS Bill to address some of the workforce challenges across the health and care system, which they had highlighted in their previous report, Closing the Gap.
Co-signatory Ms Charlesworth also made the case in February 2021 to the Health and Social Care Select Committee, led by Mr Hunt, that transparent, independent and objective projections would create a policy context where the workforce is better able to meet the needs of patients in the future.
The letter and its recommendations build on that proposal and help level how the suggestions made back in February could be incorporated within the forthcoming legislation.