NHS England and NHS Improvement publishes letter on ‘Enabling the Workforce for Elective Recovery’

NHS England and NHS Improvement has published a letter sent out to all NHS trusts setting out plans to ‘support, protect and retain staff’ in tackling the COVID-19 backlog of elective care.  

Entitled ‘Enabling the Workforce for Elective Recovery,’ the open letter outlines a variety of ‘high impact enablers’ that health and care providers should consider employing to ‘improve staff experience’, and highlights national actions undertaken to make staff workloads ‘more sustainable’, the organisations says.  

Additionally, the letter makes provisions for training, pensions, workforce redesign, workforce innovation, challenges of the elective care backlog, and collaboration amongst staff.  

The ‘high impact enablers’ stated to ‘ensure’ workforce stability includes:  

Removing caps on consultant job plans

Employers should ‘consider removing PA thresholds to allow all consultants (who wish to do so) to undertake job plans in excess of 10 PAs (and 12 PAs where relevant opt-outs are voluntarily entered)’ – provided working patterns remain safe. 

Support educational, training and leadership roles 

Teaching and training ‘needs protecting’ across all staff groups in order to ‘retain and develop’ the future workforce – maintaining supporting professional activities (SPA) time may offer ‘some protection’ against burnout and enables individuals to take on roles without reducing other activities.  

Encourage recently retired staff across the workforce to return with contracts that support elective  

Recently retired staff may wish to take up training lists and outpatients, as well as support the ‘wider development of the NHS workforce’. This option should be considered in the longer-term planning round with contracts that ‘support the employee and organisation’ – in agreement with the individual.

Here, retired staff should be ‘encouraged to return’ by ensuring that they are re-employed on arrangements reflective of their experience, skills and preferences, and the needs of the service.  

Create options for all staff to increase their contracted hours, including through bank shifts 

Where staff want to work additional hours, trusts should ‘encourage and support staff’ to increase contracted hours within existing guidelines and to work additional bank shifts to ‘reduce reliance’ on locum/agency staff. 

Increase capacity during peak periods of leave 

Increase capacity during peak periods of leave by ‘effective rostering and planning of leave within teams, and further support for staff’, such as during bank holidays and summer breaks. 

Attract paid staff and volunteers that have helped to deliver the vaccination programme in your area 

Consider ‘building on the opportunities’ for people to join the NHS on a longer-term basis – in paid roles – to ‘support the delivery of elective recovery.’  

Maximise the use of collaborative staff banks 

Maximise the use of collaborative staff banks across systems to create ‘greater staffing resilience’ across organisations and reduce reliance on agency workers.  

Increase capacity during peak periods of leave 

Increase capacity during peak periods of leave by ‘effective rostering and planning of leave’ within teams, and further support for staff, for example, during bank holidays and summer breaks. 

Use NHS Reservists  

Employ NHS Reservists (both medical and non-medical) to support with ‘surges and peaks’ in activity and provide ‘greater resilience to deliver elective recovery’.

Further innovate with alternative staffing models 

Increase innovation with alternative staffing models that ‘support the increased delivery of care’, including opportunities for students, trainees, and support worker, as well as ensuring they are ‘well supported within the wider team arrangements’ and ‘in line with recognised Safe Staffing tools.’ 

Accelerate recruitment

Continued focus to accelerate recruitment of substantive nurses and midwives, administrative staff, healthcare support workers and medical support workers 

Eligible NHS providers may access national support available via the national nursing & midwifery IR and HCSWs programmes, including medical support workers. 

To read the letter in full, please click here.