The vision of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan: Creating new careers

NHS surgeon operates on a patient

In response to the changing needs of an increasingly ageing population and the growing demand for personalised care, the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan emphasises the importance of developing new career pathways that cater to the evolving needs of both patients and healthcare professionals. This blog explores the key findings from the Plan and how this guidance could reshape traditional career models in the NHS.


Shifting towards generalist approaches:

With an expectation placed on the NHS to adapt to more complex health conditions, the Plan recognises the importance of embracing a broader skills mix to cater to a wider range of care requirements. By moving away from rigid specialisation, healthcare professionals can develop a broader understanding of various skills, specialities and disciplines, enabling them to provide comprehensive care to a diverse population.


Broader and longer nursing career pathways:

To address the 46,000-strong nursing deficit, the Plan prioritises establishing broader and longer nursing career pathways. This strategic approach aims to ensure an adequate number of qualified staff remain in the system to deliver essential care. This involves training more enhanced, advanced, and consultant practitioners. Apprenticeships will be key to making this strategy accessible to all eligible nursing professionals, while more specialist career pathways for cancer nurses will be developed, to align with the broad and complex care requirements of our current and future population.


Integrated career pathways between Health and Social Care:

Recognising the close relationship between health and social care provision, the Plan proposes developing integrated career pathways between the two sectors. NHS Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) will drive this collaboration, fostering seamless career development opportunities through shared recruitment, education, training, and qualifications. This enhanced interdisciplinary collaboration will ultimately support all organisations across the service in providing more holistic patient care.


Expanding portfolio careers:

Portfolio careers, most commonly embraced by senior medical professionals, are set to also be made available to doctors in training. This expansion will allow more healthcare professionals to balance clinical responsibilities with educational, leadership, management, and research roles. By fostering a more agile workforce in this way, the NHS aims to meet the increasingly complex healthcare needs of our ageing population. To be a success, the Plan notes that flexibility and the acquisition of diverse skills will be the cornerstones of the portfolio career model.


Broadening the skills mix in multidisciplinary teams:

The Plan focuses on creating a more diverse skills mix within multidisciplinary teams. Roles such as nursing associates, physician associates, anaesthesia associates, advanced practitioners, and approved mental health clinicians have been identified as crucial for strengthening healthcare teams and freeing up workforce capacity. The aim is to enable more experienced professionals to concentrate on specialised training and care, while these new skilled roles can cover the remaining gaps in service provision.  


Fostering autonomy and flexibility:

Acknowledging the evolving expectations of junior medical professionals, the Plan emphasises the importance of autonomy and flexibility in career planning. By offering diverse career pathways and flexiblity from the early stages of their careers, the NHS aims to create a healthy professional experience, to ultimately retain staff. This departure from rigid career structures will enable individuals to tailor their career paths according to their aspirations, driving personal and professional growth.


The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan signifies a paradigm shift in how careers will be developed and managed within the NHS. By embracing generalist approaches, integrating health and social care, expanding portfolio careers, diversifying multidisciplinary teams, and investing in professional development, the NHS aims to embed innovative and diverse career pathways as standard. These pathways will empower healthcare professionals to build fulfilling careers aligned with their professional goals, supporting the NHS to attract and retain a world leading workforce. 


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