The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan (June 2023) sets out the long-term strategic direction for the NHS workforce in England, building on existing ambitions to grow the workforce. These already include flexible working options and increasing adding 50,000 nurses by 2024. It identifies three priority areas.
Growing the workforce through more education and training as well as increasing apprenticeships and alternative routes into healthcare roles.
Working to improve culture and leadership across NHS organisations and develop career pathways for existing staff.
Improving productivity. Ensuring staff are supported is key when introducing new technologies which aim to provide more efficient and effective patient care. This priority also addresses the need to expand the existing associate role to offer modernised careers.
AHSNs are committed to supporting this plan, enabling organisations to introduce technology and pathway redesign into clinical care. In August 2023, the AHSN Network released a workforce impact report, highlighting ways in which AHSNs have been supporting this agenda. These fall into three categories:
- Improving staff knowledge, skills and confidence
- Training and coaching, including adoption and spread of innovation, continuous improvement and addressing organisational culture
- Hours released back to care through innovation
The Oxford AHSN is a strong contributor to this agenda, ensuring that staff are supported in clinical areas. Some examples are highlighted below:
Intelligent Intermittent Auscultation (IIA)
The programme aims to improve safety for mothers and babies in low-risk labour and birth by improving the knowledge, skills and confidence of midwives. It enables midwives to build up an accurate picture of how the baby is coping with the stress of contractions and take the right next steps based on whether they identify any deterioration or abnormalities in the fetal heart rate. The training package supports the NHS Long Term Plan and responds to the national Each Baby Counts 2020 final progress report, which highlights the importance of intermittent auscultation and identifies specific training requirements.
Electronic Repeat Dispensing (eRD)
The NHS Long Term Plan reiterates the need to have the right number of clinicians to safely care for patients. Electronic Repeat Dispensing (eRD) reduces workload for prescribers, allowing better prioritisation of resources, with effective eRD saving up to 46 minutes a day of GP time. This means that if 80% of all repeats issued as repeat dispensing, 2.7 million GP hours could be saved. This programme of work was undertaken in collaboration with the Wessex, South West and Kent Surrey Sussex AHSNs.
The Oxford AHSN led a two-year national rollout of asthma care innovation – increasing access to life-changing biologics for people with severe asthma – through the NHS Accelerated Access Collaborative. As well as initiating biologics for an additional 4,690 patients, a comprehensive package of specialist educational resources was created to support clinicians. Thousands of hours of training were delivered and online toolkits were accessed thousands of times.
Developing Health and Wellbeing Leads
The national NHS Health and Wellbeing Framework was updated in 2021. It sets out standards for NHS organisations to support staff to remain well, healthy and happy at work. Throughout this process the need to support and develop those who lead health and wellbeing in organisations was identified. Commissioned by NHS England, four AHSNs (Eastern, North East North Cumbria, Oxford and UCLP) collaborated with NHS organisations to identify the development and support needs for health and wellbeing staff. Over 500 health and wellbeing leads and senior responsible officers have contributed to the design of this phase via surveys, workshops and interviews. The overarching outcome is the need for both strategic and operational health and wellbeing staff in organisations – this is supported by a proposed competency framework.