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Integrating Healthcare: Tackling NHS Workforce Challenges

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The final session of the Integrating Healthcare London and the South East Seminar tackled one of the most important issues facing the NHS today, overcoming workforce challenges.

In the final session of the Integrating Healthcare London and the South East Seminar a dynamic panel of leaders drawn from the Integrated Healthcare Boards discussed the path forward for healthcare workforce collaboration and innovation.

In a seminar packed with engaging discussions, this final session stood out as the crescendo of the day, addressing the pivotal concerns that are shaping the future of healthcare delivery.

Collaboration is Key

Central to the panel discussion was the recurring theme of collaboration as the antidote to the healthcare workforce crisis. Anchored by the recent unveiling of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, the panellists delved into the plan’s tripartite focus on training, retention, and reform.

On the panel, experienced leaders from the Integrated Care Systems outlined their thoughts for the future design of the system and ways in which they are making change happen. The panel included Chief People Officer at North Central London Integrated Care Board (ICB), Sarah Morga, Chief Nursing Officer at South East London ICB, Angela Helleur, and Chief Finance Officer at North East London ICB, Henry Black

Helleur started the discussion by highlighting the formidable challenges that nursing and care sectors face, particularly in underserved regions. With nursing vacancies ranging from 5% to an astonishing 25% in South East London, the gravity of the situation was evident. The attrition rate among novice nurses further compounded the urgency of the situation, necessitating immediate measures to retain and nurture skilled professionals. The significance of creating safe working environments and enhancing overall working conditions emerged as critical factors in addressing this crisis.

“Our workforce challenges demand immediate action. From nursing vacancies to attrition rates, the situation is urgent. Pay is important, but working conditions and safe environments are equally vital. Collaboration with local councils, upskilling carers, and focusing on areas of need are our paths to a stronger healthcare workforce.”

Angela Helleur, Chief Nursing Officer, South East London ICB

NHS Recruitment and Retention

Following Helleur, Morgan shifted the spotlight to the recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals, with a special focus on areas grappling with acute shortages. The insurmountable hurdle faced by preceptorship nurses, who are unable to afford living in London, added to the complexity of recruitment efforts. Morgan underscored the significance of forging robust collaborations with local councils to cultivate opportunities for marginalised communities, thereby alleviating supply shortages.

“To address workforce shortages, we must create opportunities for untapped communities and forge collaborations with local councils. It’s not just about pay; it’s about making healthcare professions a viable and attractive career choice for all, while ensuring safe environments and better working conditions.”

Sarah Morgan, Chief People Officer, North Central London ICB

The Need for a Broader Conversation

As the finance specialist on the panel, Black contributed to the discussion regarding the financial aspects of workforce planning. In his deliberations, he emphasised the need to transcend narrow yardsticks of productivity. He advocated for a paradigm shift towards a comprehensive understanding of value, encompassing patient-level costing and resource deployment. Black’s call for a broader, more holistic perspective on value creation and the financial benefits derived from community-based workforce strategies struck a harmonious chord with the audience.

“Moving beyond narrow measures of productivity is crucial. We need a broader conversation about the model of care we need, the skills required, and how they align with our workforce. Patient-level costing and local resource deployment are key to understanding value and driving a community-focused workforce strategy that yields both clinical and financial benefits.”

Henry Black, Chief Finance Officer, North East London ICS

As the session transitioned into an interactive discussion, a plethora of topics came to the fore, ranging from the imperative of psychological safety within workplaces to the crucial role of diversity in clinical research. The pivotal role of patients as a reservoir of untapped potential in surmounting workforce challenges was championed, along with the vital importance of harnessing innovation and collaborative synergy to illuminate the path forward.

This was a useful opportunity for attendees to ask their questions and consider ways in which ideas that have been working in London can deliver results in their communities. The panel was open to discussing not just what they had successfully implemented, but also what they had not yet delivered effectively. It was an honest appraisal.

Final thought

As the final session of the Integrating Healthcare Seminar the panel highlighted the imperative of embracing innovative and collaborative approaches to surmount the prevailing healthcare workforce crisis. The call for inclusive, secure working environments that champion professionals while fostering trust was sounded. Additionally, the crucial role that patients can play in shaping and enhancing healthcare delivery emerged as a rallying cry for united action.

Following the formal part of the day over a networking drink, the conversation turned to underscoring the urgency of collective endeavours to ensure the healthcare system’s resilience and vigour in the face of formidable challenges.

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