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National research confirms COVID-19 impact on NHS workforce skills

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A report released today, 2nd September, by Skills for Health confirms that the pandemic has had wider than expected consequences on our NHS and wider health and care workforce which will continue to significantly influence service delivery for some time to come.

This vital national research is based on the Covid-19 Workforce Survey, which was conducted by Skills for Health in June 2020, and received a substantial 2950 responses from those working across our NHS, and wider health and care services. The findings, analysed by the Sector Skills Council for Health’s leading Research Division, clearly show that following three months of extreme change in the sector, organisations suffered severe skills loss. The report highlights the critical issues which contributed to this, with the aim of supporting the sector to rebuild and reset for a sustainable future, both now and in the long-term.

Jon Parry, Head of Research and Evaluation, Skills for Health said: “This report is the first step in our efforts to provide intelligence and support which will help guide a path to recovery in terms of service delivery, and most importantly, ensure that employee well-being is at the forefront of future ways of working.”

Andrew Lovegrove, Senior Workforce Development Consultant, Skills for Health starts to consider some of the key insights outlined in the report here. As an expert in workforce planning and skills development, he looks at a few of the crucial challenges highlighted in the research and how organisations can begin to develop the practical solutions needed moving forward.

Nearly a quarter say skills will be lost due to COVID-19.

A variety of reasons were identified as to why organisations are losing skills from their workforce as a result of the pandemic, including staff retiring, or resigning early due to burnout, staff illness, and in some cases sadly death of a staff member. Some staff have also had to self-isolate or stay at home to care for family members suffering from coronavirus. This has meant that valuable skills have been lost altogether or taken out of service for an extended period.

Andrew commented: “The immediate fallout from COVID-19 is going to be with us for a long time. We need to think differently; not just about how we deliver our services but crucially who is going to provide them and in what way.’’

Furthermore, organisational change and ways of working can be tangibly linked to skills needs in the future, with nearly 100% of respondents stating that infection prevention and control, as well as conveying information effectively, will be a key future skill.

Over 95% thought that dealing with out of the ordinary situations and the appropriate use of equipment, facilities, and materials would be crucial for staff going forward.

Andrew adds: ‘’Sustainable change is not just about fixing things in the short-term; flexible working (such as home-working) brings its own set of challenges. We need to assess the negatives as well as the positives of these issues; work out ‘what’s worked and what hasn’t?’ Only when we know this can we make more impactful long-term changes.’’

70% say training needs have increased.

The issues uncovered in the report understandably correlate to the key focuses outlined in the recently published NHS People Plan. Now, Skills for Health want to ensure that paired with this crucial research, workforce planning and development teams can implement the practical, evidence based measures to support the recovery and sustainable growth of a highly skilled workforce for the future, that meets the ambitions set out in front of them.

Almost half of employers report their organisational structure will look different.

Andrew’s final comments: “We’ve long advocated that workforce planning and development is a vital activity of any health organisation. COVID-19 has highlighted that we’ll ‘fail’ without adequate people planning. Our team at Skills for Health are ready to help with a range of solutions to understand and practically see to the challenges presented in these Covid-19 Workforce Survey findings.”

Skills for Health, the Sector Skills Council for Health, and leading experts in workforce planning and skills development, support the NHS, wider health, and social care providers throughout the UK to develop workforce solutions to support the public health needs of the future.

Get in touch with their team to find out how they can help your organisation today.

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