The Conservatives’ plans for the NHS workforce, part 1

Following the result of this month’s general election, the Conservative party has formed a Cabinet and Jeremy Hunt has been confirmed as the Secretary of State for Health.

Jeremy Hunt has been in post as Heath Secretary since September 2012 and has already done much to shape and influence strategy for the future of the NHS. With the Conservative party now holding a majority in the House of Commons, Nicola Green and Victoria Watson from Capsticks explore some of the changes which are likely to take place in the NHS over the next five years, and the workforce issues which NHS organisations will need to get to grips with.

The Five Year Forward View

In October 2014 NHS England published ‘The Five Year Forward View’ (the FYFV), a paper setting out the changes NHS leaders believe are required to improve healthcare in England to meet the changing needs of the population.

The vision is ambitious, not least because of the funding issues facing the NHS. However, in the run up to the election the Conservative party assured the public that it was committed to the FYFV and to increasing NHS spending in England by a minimum of £8 billion per year by 2020, and that this increase, coupled with efficiencies in the NHS, will provide sufficient funds to enable the plan to be implemented.

But what does the FYFV mean for the NHS workforce and what other Conservative election promises are likely to affect NHS staff?

New models of service

The FYFV sets out a vision of a new network of care, where healthcare services are delivered closer to or in patients’ homes.

Multi-speciality Community Providers of primary care are identified as one model of care. These community providers would become the focal point for a wider range of care and it will be made possible for extended group practices to form, either as federations, networks or single organisations. This model will mean that the majority of outpatient consultations will take place not in hospitals but in local settings.
In terms of workforce implications, the FYFV states that NHS leaders will consider the most appropriate employment arrangements to enable NHS staff to work across organisational and sector boundaries. Therefore, further guidance is likely to be issued.

One possibility could be the use of secondment agreements for healthcare professionals to allow them to work flexibly between hospital and community settings. There is a question as to whether such arrangements could be successfully negotiated – a change to an employee’s place of work is often met with resistance and such flexible arrangements could represent significant amendments to terms and conditions. There would also need to be discussions to establish how this arrangement will be funded and the terms and conditions under which the arrangements will take place.

In the next article, we will look at the impact of the FYFV on workforce strategy and seven-day working.

Conclusion

The NHS was one of the key issues for the public in this general election and the Conservatives can be sure that they will be held to account for the commitments made in their manifesto. They have given their backing to the FYFV and whilst the FYFV itself comments that there is no appetite for structural reorganisation in the NHS, significant changes to the way the health service is delivered in England are afoot. The NHS workforce will need to demonstrate flexibility in order to make the new vision a reality.

Nicola Green and Victoria Watson