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Michael Brown, Area Wide Staff Bank Manager for NHS Forth Valley shares his thoughts on tackling workforce challenges ahead of the Global Healthcare Workforce Crisis panel session at the BMJ International Forum for Quality and Safety in Healthcare


Worldwide, vacancies and skills shortages within the healthcare workforce are continuing to increase. In a briefing paper published in November last year, the King’s Fund, the Health Foundation and the Nuffield Trust forecast that, based on current trends, NHS staff shortages in England could rise to almost 250,000 by 2030. The paper described workforce challenges as ‘a greater threat to health services than funding’.

In this climate, the retention of existing staff is more important than ever, and the changing nature of the workforce has to be taken into consideration. The Topol Review found that NHS organisations need to develop ‘flexible ways of working’ in response to the entry of millennials into the workforce, which has resulted in changing expectations around work-life balance. In light of this, we must seek to change traditional work patterns, promoting ways of working that will improve staff experience. More flexibility will serve to increase the appeal of a career in healthcare, supporting recruitment and retention. Technology will be a key asset in creating more flexibility for healthcare staff, empowering them with visibility and control over shifts, payment, and annual leave and reducing the burden of administrative tasks.

In order to continue meeting patient demand, it is imperative that healthcare organisations deploy the staff they do have to maximum affect. Technology is already helping organisations compensate for staff gaps by enabling them to plan more effective workforce deployment. Crucially, software can provide visibility of peaks and troughs in demand that should be used to inform shift patterns and required staffing levels. Planning staff deployment according to need also delivers better care for patients.

Simply introducing new technology is not enough, however. Staff can offer valuable insight into what is needed from technology, which can shape the development of workforce tools and models, and it is up to healthcare organisations to work together with staff at all levels and in all areas when investing in new products. Consulting staff on the future vision of workforce deployment will ensure that the technology and new models of working serve them and patients as best as possible and can also foster better engagement.

Collaboration across organisations and regions can provide further efficiencies around workforce deployment, and technology is already facilitating collaboration of this nature.

You will be able to hear in-depth discussion on these topics at the Global Healthcare Workforce Crisis panel session, part of the BMJ International Forum for Quality and Safety in Healthcare taking place in Glasgow across three days in March. Panellists will offer their views and experiences from different areas of healthcare and will include myself, Dr Andy Haynes, Medical Director at Sherwood Forest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and Rupert Clarke, Head of Solutions Delivery at Allocate.

Delegates will be able to find out how organisations are using technology to fill gaps through agile working, how risk and assurance can be approached in view of staff shortages, and how the introduction of new roles is changing care delivery. For full details of the event, click here.