Nuffield Trust response to announcement on NHS Long Term Workforce Plan

Dr Billy Palmer responds to the imminent publication of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

Press release

Published: 29/06/2023

Responding to the government's announcement ahead of the publication of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, Nuffield Trust Senior Fellow Dr Billy Palmer said:

“After years of drift, it is a relief to finally see some real planning for the NHS workforce. The huge increase in trainees promised will mean less risk of shortages in the long term. It is very disappointing that this announcement has been made without actually publishing the plan itself, but it at least appears to be based on credible projections, and tackles some of the specific problems we have warned about in areas like apprenticeships and distributing of clinical placements.

“Given the dismal reality of what many staff are experiencing working in the NHS, there is a risk that we will feed more and more people into training only to burn them out ever faster. Our analysis today showed staff sickness has stayed an alarming 29% higher after the pandemic than before. Dropping out from training has been such a big problem that large increases in the number of GP trainees since 2014 had barely any effect on the number ultimately coming through. Betting the farm on just training more could be a costly gamble.

“I hope the plan contains concrete, specific proposals to keep more staff in the NHS. But it will fail unless it is followed up by efficient, effective ways we can fix the holes in the workforce by making the NHS a place where people really want to work. This is poorly understood and needs more research: put simply, there isn’t a credible solution on the table yet. This must include taking a look at our broken pay review system, which has aggravated dissatisfaction.

“This sudden boost in training also carries some risks. Nobody wants to see standards drop in selecting doctors and nurses. The time required for so much supervising by more senior clinicians will be an issue and could eat into efforts to clear the backlog – a risk I hope the plan will recognise.

“It is a missed opportunity that we see no social care workforce plan promised alongside this. The shortages and chronic staff turnover are even more damaging than in the NHS, and the two sectors share crucial staff groups like nurses, with a constant risk of health services sucking vital workers from fragile care providers. In future, we should align the two to make sure services which keep people well and help them return from hospital have committed, available staff as well.”

Notes to editors

1. NHS England’s press release states that their Long Term Workforce Plan will be published at 9.00am tomorrow (Friday 30 June).

2. A new Nuffield Trust analysis of NHS staff sickness rates, All is not well: Sickness absence in the NHS in England, has been published today and can be seen on our website here.

3. The Nuffield Trust is an independent health think tank. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate

4. For all queries or to arrange an interview, contact: Simon Keen: 07780 475571 /; or Eleanor Martin: 07920 043676 /