Why the NHS People Plan is music to my ears

NHS staff burn out rushing through a trust.

Yesterday saw the publication of the long-awaited NHS People Plan 2020/21, a set of practical guidelines for NHS England and Health Education England employers.

I find both the overarching message and the details within the plan extremely encouraging. I’m delighted that the senior leadership under Prerana Issar are demonstrating such a tangible commitment to putting people first.

A detail in the plan which stands out to me is the promise to make flexible working a ‘default’ for NHS employees, with personalised working patterns on offer from day one and normalised within workplace culture. As acknowledged by the new Head of Flexible Working, Jane Galloway, this is an essential transition if we want to attract and retain the highest calibre of doctors, nurses and support staff. Frankly, it’s music to my ears.

Not only does the plan pledge to facilitate flexible working amongst hospital clinicians, but it also proposes the creation of hospital-style staff banks for GPs. We know from our extensive experience in setting up digital staff banks that they are not only hugely popular amongst clinicians when run effectively, but also an incredibly impactful route to secure and affordable staffing. GP staff banks would allow Primary Care services to respond seamlessly to surges in demand such as localised COVID-19 outbreaks.

It’s also excellent to see that e-rostering will be championed across sectors, enabling a more effective staffing process and informed, data-driven forward planning. The reduction in admin spend and human labour brought about by digitisation will not only save money but also precious administrative hours.

It seems that the importance of allowing for family and caring responsibilities, as well as for the pursuit of portfolio careers and sabbatical breaks, are also being championed in this plan. Even junior doctors, who for many years have struggled under rigid rotas, are now set to benefit from less than full-time training options and flexible working in their F1 and F2 years. As a doctor who stepped away from full-time practice to pursue a portfolio career, the  broadening of the horizons for incoming medics is something we at Patchwork Health have been proudly championing.

Our team has spent the last four years calling for genuine flexibility to be made a reality, and this latest set of commitments is a major step towards achieving this goal. I feel a real sense of hope that the next generation of NHS staff will enjoy a work-life balance which suits their personal needs and career aspirations, whilst also strengthening NHS delivery.

The NHS is an organisation whose greatness truly comes from its people. The coming months are set to bring yet more challenges for our health service, but by making every effort to support our key workers we will emerge stronger, together.

Find out how to establish a safe, sustainable and modern staffing solution with Patchwork Health