The future of NHS HR and organisational development report: Unwrapped

NHS clinician using workforce technology

At the end of November, the NHS published a report outlining their ten-year strategy for human resources (HR) and organisational development (OD) services.

This comprehensive plan covers and embeds many key themes that are important for the future success of the NHS, including those previously highlighted in the We are the NHS: People Plan for 2020/2021 and the seven commitments of the People Promise.

Here, two former NHS People Professionals, Patchwork’s Head of Customer Success Dan Chilcott and Patchwork’s Director of NHS Partnerships Sue Hodkinson, take a deep dive into the report and explore its recommendations for deploying a successful workforce solution.

Key takeaways

  • The report highlights the need to invest in staff development as a means by which to help retain, reduce NHS staff burnout and progress staff throughout their careers
  • It also stresses the importance of cross-organisational working to improve patient care at all stages of all pathways
  • It recognises that a tech-driven workforce solution can be utilised to overcome existing challenges and support complex, manual processes such as the onboarding and movement of staff
  • The importance of planning for the ever-evolving changes to clinical services is reiterated, and the importance of being able to effectively deploy staff in line with need
  • The report also considers the importance of flexibility for staff, and its role in improving work-life balance.


People Professionals within the NHS, and the healthcare system as a whole, ought to be praised for their perseverance in the face of the challenges of the past two years.

However, it is now time to focus on the support needed for those dedicated professionals; not only to solve the problems of today, but to prepare for success over the next 10 years.

To enable this, workforce solutions and their supporting services must keep pace and keep in alignment with the direction being set by NHS leadership. We need innovative staffing software for healthcare organisations that enable financial savings and deliver practical data analytics. But, we also need to focus on facilitating great experiences for every person who interacts with health and care services.

Achieving this requires the enabling of flexible working across system providers, access to a skills-dependent array of work opportunities, and, ultimately, helping every worker to feel valued, encouraged and supported.

How organisations can work in alignment with the report’s themes

Reducing NHS staff burnout and improving wellbeing, inclusion and quality of experience (Action points 12 – 26)

  • By building systems and processes tailored to the needs of staff, organisations can more effectively promote wellbeing and improve retention
  • For example, the right workforce solution can give staff a say in the design of their rotas safely, and support worker preferences and requests, whilst also automatically adhering to EWTD and contract restrictions
  • In addition, with the right workforce solution in place, onboarding activities can be streamlined and accelerated to reduce manual intervention and to improve the experience for new staff, ultimately driving recruitment
  • Building robust authorisation pathways and audit trails will ensure that fairness & equality can be managed with consistency across organisations

Supporting and developing all staff  (Action points  1 – 3, 27-30)

  • The most effective workforce solutions are those designed to help and support leaders, streamlining their workflows and automating admin tasks. This allows them more time to focus on the most important challenges
  • Connecting and regularly bringing together staff from multiple organisations is crucial for the sharing of best practices, for the building of cooperative relationships and for learning from each other
  • The use of digital passporting for staff credentials makes the movement of staff between employers quicker and easier. This means that they can gain diverse clinical experience and offer support more readily in new locations.

Leading future-proof change with digital and service innovation  (Action points 4 – 6, 7 – 11,  31 – 35)

  • NHS organisations need workforce solutions that consolidate every required step – from service planning and scheduling to rota changes, vacancy filling, and payroll – into a single, interoperable, user-friendly platform, preventing the duplication of efforts.
  • A key learning from the COVID-19 pandemic is the need for workforce solutions to be flexible and capable of redeploying staff to where they are needed most – between various departments or even across organisations –  minimising the administration and time input from managers.
  • Harnessing data-driven insights generated by staffing software is key to improving visibility around shift scheduling and temporary staffing needs. However, systems must still allow for clinical and leadership intervention where needed.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the best new workforce solutions are those built in partnership with NHS staff, designed for use across multidisciplinary teams and to enable cross-organisational working across NHS integrated care systems. At Patchwork, we believe that to guarantee best outcomes, workforce solution providers should offer comprehensive and ongoing support to partners as standard.