Cooperation and collaboration: my bywords for successfully delivering a sustainable healthcare workforce

30 January 2020

Guest blog by Sir David Behan – Chair, Health Education England

At the recent Council of Deans Annual Conference, I was delighted to share my perspective on how Health Education England (HEE) can work with colleagues in higher education institutions to deliver a sustainable healthcare workforce.

The collective workforce challenge we face is not only a national one, but a global one and, after a year as HEE Chair, I am still struck by the number of moving parts in our health education and training system which are complex and complicated, highly distributed and not always aligned or incentivised to act consistently together.

Yet, closing the workforce gap means our task and our relationship has never been more important which is why I’m passionate about ensuring we have honest conversations about the challenges and pressures we face, as well as the opportunities they present. We are “all in this together” – and can only succeed if we acknowledge that.

To succeed in delivering a sustainable healthcare workforce, cooperation and collaboration are key – no one organisation or locality can succeed alone. This is the approach HEE, NHS England and NHS Improvement and others are modelling in developing the NHS People Plan.

I’ve made it clear that I would like to see a multiyear settlement for HEE’s spending up until 2025 – which, in turn will give confidence to higher education institutions that they can strengthen their infrastructure to prepare for the future.

The Council and its members are valued partners to HEE – we want to work beside you and with you to deliver a sustainable workforce, a sustainable health and care system and a sustainable health education system that will benefit patients for the years to come.

Here’s how HEE needs your continued support:

  • We are dependent on you to support us in closing the NHS nursing workforce gap – more places; less attrition; more flexibility and broadening participation. We need you to make nursing courses as attractive as possible with the right entry requirements for students who aspire to join the nursing profession. We need nurse degree courses in every part of the country and we need to work with you where you are having difficulty keeping courses open, both clinical professional and AHP, because we know nurses tend to work where they train.
  • We need you to increase the number of students you accept onto nursing and AHP courses. HEE and the rest of the NHS stand ready to help with our #WeAreTheNHS campaign and our Health Careers service in raising the profile and perception of nursing and AHP careers to help fill universities and NHS services.
  • We need to work together to make sure the undergraduate and clinical placement capacity is available where we need it, in the numbers we require and filled with the students who are our future nurses.
  • New technologies will be increasingly used by people with long term conditions and their carers and volunteers to support greater self management through smartphones, apps and digital communications. We should open up our training materials, and our education providers, to help people help themselves. What do you think universities can do in this area? Tell us.

If we succeed we will create the workforce the NHS needs, you will burnish your reputations as global leaders in clinical education and training, acting as a magnet to students from home and abroad. And, together, we will have made life better for the citizens of this country for decades to come.

We must innovate together, use our funding more effectively, and collaborate – not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard too. These are the true tests of partnership. We must innovate together, use our funding more effectively, and collaborate – not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard too. These are the true tests of partnership.

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