HETT North's Workforce, Adoption, and Productivity theatre commenced with a fireside chat titled "Train, Retain, Reform - How Will Digital Support the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan Delivery?" Phil Jennings, CEO of Health Innovation North West Coast, chaired the session, accompanied by Catherine Toole, Head of Product at NHS Digital Academy - NHS England, and Henrietta Mbeah-Bankas, Head of Portfolio (Blended Learning, AHP, and Advancing Practice & Pharmacy) at WT&E NHS England. 

The session delved into the evolving skill requirements for future technology leaders within the NHS, exploring various creative and dynamic approaches to ensure the acquisition of these necessary skills.

What are the main implications on the NHS Workforce plan from a digital point of view? 

Henrietta kicked off the discussion highlighting the NHS's shift towards assessing workforce planning based on diverse skill sets rather than just the number of workers. This adjustment reflects the dynamic nature of the healthcare environment, where factors like an ageing population influence the demand for specific skills. 

The discussion then progressed to address the three primary priorities of the workforce plan: Train, retain and reform.  Henrietta stressed the need for a shift in the NHS's approach to training, highlighting that continuing with traditional methods will not yield different results. Many individuals possess the requisite values and attitudes to join the NHS workforce but face barriers such as training. A central focus of the new workforce plan is implementing appropriate training to draw these individuals into NHS roles. Apprenticeships play a significant role in the long-term workforce strategy, employing flexible methods like blended learning to appeal to a broader range of candidates. 

The second crucial priority of the plan is retention, which centres on creating an optimal environment for all NHS employees. It involves looking at the "people promise" and emphasising the value placed on the workforce. The final priority, reform, addresses the overarching changes needed in NHS education. This is where digitalisation is key and with the NHS recognising the transformative potential of digital tools in shaping and educating their workforce. 

Henrietta concluded this segment of the fireside chat by underscoring that the long-term workforce plan cannot be delivered without the complementary DDaT (Digital, Data, and Technology) plan. This entails exploring how the NHS can expand the capacity of its workforce and facilitate career advancement within the organisation. 

How do we start in creating a workforce plan for DDaT professionals  

Catherine emphasised that the first challenge lies in attracting the right people to join the NHS. The opportunities to work with big data and effect meaningful change serves as a significant draw for DDaT professionals, yet this potential is not fully capitalised on at present. Therefore, it's crucial for the NHS to adopt innovative methods to attract a diverse range of talent, highlighting the benefits of working within the organisation and ensuring a fulfilling career once individuals are onboarded. The upcoming DDaT plan reemphasises this, as it has a focus on community, scaling, transferrable skills and bringing more people into the DDaT workforce.  

Catherine proceeded to underscore the issue of digital literacy across the entire workforce. She acknowledged that while many individuals possess some level of digital proficiency in their daily lives, there is a need to simplify technology and ensure that individuals can apply their everyday experiences to their professional roles. This involves designing and acquiring systems that are user-friendly and intuitive, ultimately addressing digital literacy concerns. 

How can we improve retention? 

After attracting the appropriate professionals to join the NHS, the next step is to ensure their satisfaction and provide sufficient variety in their roles. Additionally, prioritising the health and wellbeing of staff and offering meaningful work is crucial. 

Henrietta also highlighted the frequent moments of despair regarding the pace, capacity, and pressure to deliver projects within unrealistic timeframes and budgets. She emphasised that digital transformation could help to address these challenges. It was also highlighted that everyone has a role to play in digital transformation, and the NHS needs to comprehend how to optimise digital teams' performance, their required pace of work, and the necessary technology for delivery. Implementing more academies and programmes to enhance the digital literacy of the rest of the workforce will facilitate collaboration and a better understanding of the requirements for success. 

Find out more about the NHS workforce plan at HETT Show 

You can listen to the full discussion from the panel below. Or join us on 24th & 25th September 2024 at ExCeL London where the Workforce, Adoption and Productivity theatre makes its return for more content around the NHS workforce plan.  


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