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Responding to the publication of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, Dr Jennifer Dixon, the Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said:   

'The publication of the NHS workforce plan is a major milestone for the NHS. For the first time in two decades, the health service has a plan for meeting its staffing needs based on plausible projections of future demand for care and supply of labour.

‘The Health Foundation has independently assessed the modelling approach used by NHS England to inform the staffing projections set out in the plan.1 While we welcome the promise to update the projections every two years, health policy is littered with good intentions that have fallen by the wayside, so we continue to believe the commitment to publish independently verified staffing projections should be enshrined in law, as the Chancellor himself has argued.

‘The headline commitment to train more doctors, nurses and other medical staff is a huge step forward. However, the disappointing lack of detail made available around the announcement makes it impossible to comment on the substance of the plan, so we look forward to further details about the content of the plan and the government’s response.

‘While publishing the workforce plan is a significant step forward, making it work in practice will depend on broader action and investment from government. Leaver rates among NHS staff are close to record levels, and years of below inflation pay settlements mean the wages of many NHS staff have fallen behind comparable occupations. Training more staff is essential, but this will be little good if the NHS is unable to retain the staff it’s already got.

‘The plan also relies on optimistic assumptions about improving NHS productivity. But this will be a pipedream without significant investment in the buildings, equipment, IT and digital infrastructure needed for staff to work effectively and deliver 21st century services. Capital investment in the NHS has been below comparable countries for decades – and it shows.

‘Urgent action is also needed to support the social care workforce, where staff shortages are chronic and 1 in 5 care workers live in poverty. Without an equivalent plan for social care, today’s plan for the NHS could actually make the situation in social care even worse.

‘The publication of the plan is a significant step forward but implementing it will be a huge challenge. This will be incredibly difficult when services are under such huge pressure but by harnessing the skill, commitment and ingenuity of its staff, the NHS can rise to the challenge, as long as it is backed by action and investment from the government.’

Notes to editors

1 In February 2023, the Health Foundation’s REAL Centre was asked by NHS England to undertake an independent assessment of the modelling approach used to inform the staffing projections in the NHS workforce plan. We were pleased to do so and found that NHS England’s approach to the modelling and the assumptions underpinning this were plausible. Our assessment was of the modelling approach only – as it stood at the time - not the projections for the number of staff needed or likely to be available. Since then, NHS England have made changes to some of the assumptions underpinning the modelling approach. We have continued to discuss the approach to the modelling with NHS England as it has evolved but have not assessed the final version of the model used for the NHS workforce plan or the staffing projections it contains. Read more about the REAL Centre's assessment

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