- Joint NHS taskforce set up to challenge weak STP workforce plans
- NHS Improvement nursing director says staffing is the “weakest” element of the STPs
- Ruth May warns of divergence between operational plans and STP forecasts
A new taskforce will challenge weak workforce proposals in sustainability and transformation plans, NHS Improvement has told LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal.
Ruth May, NHS Improvement’s director of nursing, said she was worried about what she called a “divergence” away from trusts’ operational plans, and forecasts of large reductions in nursing staff in some STPs.
She said workforce plans were the “weakest” parts of the STP process adding the plans had a long way to go to demonstrate they would have sufficient staff to maintain patient care.
NHS Improvement has said a taskforce, made up of senior nursing figures from arm’s length bodies including NHS Improvement and NHS England, has been set up to examine, and where necessary challenge, STPs’ workforce plans.
The group started its work last month. It is unclear which STPs are being looked at and whether the team has achieved any changes to the plans.
Unpublished STP proposals revealed by HSJ earlier this month show NHS organisations are planning to employ thousands fewer nurses and other staff in the next few years.
Ms May said: “I think we have seen there is a divergence between what is in the operational plans and what is in the STPs, and the workforce elements of the STPs are in my opinion the weakest parts.
“There is a risk that we could see some systems making the same mistakes as the [long term financial model] and making the money add up, and not concentrating on what workforce they need.
“Workforce is part of the solutions to this but workforce working differently, taking down the barriers and working in new models of care. We will still need to make sure we have sufficient registered nurses and a multi-professional workforce that is safe for patient care and STPs have a long way to go before they can demonstrate that.”
Mark Radford, director of nursing improvement at NHS Improvement, said the taskforce would provide “appropriate challenge”. He added: “We are rightly going back to the system to ask why the operational plans are doing one thing and the STPs are another.
“Some of the plans are in really good shape and provide some real opportunity to get the system right for patients and clients and they should be applauded and given support to be able to make some of these changes. Where the weaker ones are unclear we need to go in there to provide a bit of advice, guidance and challenge as appropriate.”
The taskforce was looking “at the broad church of all the plans recognising those that have got some really sound and credible plans for development and those that need more work”, he said.
Ms May added that she was worried about the effect of Brexit on the NHS workforce, after new figures showed the number of staff from the EU registered with the Nursing Midwifery Council had dropped since last year’s referendum.
She said: “Brexit is genuinely worrying. We are starting to see Brexit bite.”