King’s Fund shares seven ‘key actions’ for NHS leaders to tackle workforce crisis

The King’s Fund – a charity and think-tank that focuses on health and social care policy – has shared a new thought piece on how NHS leaders can tackle the ‘workforce crisis’.

A blog by Suzie Bailey, Director of Leadership and Organisational Development at the King’s Fund, and Michael West, a Visiting Fellow at the charity and a Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology at Lancaster University, recommend seven ‘key actions’ to take.

The article states, ‘even before the pandemic, these sectors [health and social care] were facing the biggest staffing crisis since the introduction of the welfare state in 1948’, citing high level vacancies, sickness absences, staff turnover and stress among the contributing factors.

On what can be done to help address the issue, the authors recommend that leaders:

  • Make compassionate leadership the foundation of their leadership calls for a ‘new approach to leadership’ based on the ‘core value of compassion’ at local, regional and national levels, and within ‘interactions between all parts of the system – from local teams to national leaders’. 
  • Commit to equity, equality, diversity and inclusion that ‘all leaders can practise compassionate and inclusive leadership’, ‘positively and overtly valuing equity, equality, diversity and inclusion both for their own sake and for the impact on care quality’. It’s also advised that staff wellbeing must be ‘part of every leader’s training, ongoing development and objectives’, including being up to date on research, actively offering to mentor staff from systematically disadvantaged groups, regularly assessing their own performance, and offering career opportunities.
  • Address the core needs of staff – leadership should focus on ‘better meeting the core workplace needs of health and social care staff such as needs for autonomy and control’.
  • Prioritise collective leadership – ‘where emphasis and effort is placed on developing relationships and trust between people, that provides the optimum basis for compassionate cultures’. This can include engaging with everyone about shared responsibility, offering feedback, inviting others to ‘actively contribute to the daily leadership’, encouraging interdependent leadership across boundaries to prioritise patient care, and having consistent approaches.
  • Align the national approach to regulation and oversight – helping to remove obstacles for national bodies, such as ‘excessive bureaucracy, data-reporting burden, excessive performance management’, and ensuring the right resources – adequate numbers of staff, equipment, and appropriate training and development – are in place.
  • Address the workforce crisis as a collective leadership responsibility – a focus on the next 10 to 20 years by leaders working together locally and nationally with ‘peers in partner agencies to co-develop credible plans’ for the workforce and acknowledging the ‘scale and complexity’ of the challenge.

Having summed up their seven points, the authors then conclude that: “The shared vision must be to create an outstanding health and care system that embodies the values we have as a society…that requires leaders at every level in our society to rise to the monumental challenge and pursue the people-focused, evidence-based strategy we outline here.”

Find the full article online, here.