ICSs at heart of NHS people plan

4 Jun 19

The interim NHS People Plan has outlined an “increasing role” for Integrated Care Systems in addressing workforce challenges.

The structures, which bring together local authorities, commissioners, primary care networks and others will be responsible for rolling out the workforce strategy, according the plan released today.

“As part of the wide engagement undertaken during the development of the interim People Plan, there was considerable support for the idea of ICSs taking on greater responsibility for workforce and people-related activities, with the appropriate resources and when ready,” the plan said.

The plan, published by NHS Improvement, suggested that greater use of ICSs would create “more effective partnerships with local authorities and other partners to address wider determinants of health and help enhance the health and wellbeing of local communities.”

A recruitment target of 40,000 new nurses by 2024 was also set with NHS Improvement suggesting more nurses should be brought in from abroad. Recent analysis by health think-tanks found that nursing shortfalls could double to 70,000 by 2024.

A Health Foundation spokesperson said: “Restrictive migration policies will only act as a further barrier to addressing the workforce crisis. Without at least 5,000 nurses from abroad each year, NHS staffing shortages will increase.”

Other groups said the proposals must be backed by funding.

“A good plan is a good start, but for this to be more than a piece of paper, it needs to be backed up with money and people,” said Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the membership organisation NHS Confederation, said: “Our verdict: this is welcome but an effective workforce strategy will need investment. This will need to be delivered in the next Spending Review.”

Dickson stressed the need for “much greater alignment with social care” and suggested that instead of separate plans, social care should be included in the NHS plan.

The report said that the government will bring forward a consultation on pensions taxation arrangements, which could see doctors reducing their hours and retiring to avoid paying high taxes on pensions savings.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of the membership organisation NHS Providers, said: “All of us, inevitably, wanted more. More money, more staff and more complete solutions to long-running problems like pensions and immigration rules, delivered now.

“But, given the Spending Review timing and a Brexit-focused government, that was never going to be possible.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called the plan “thin gruel ducking the big challenges of how to solve an escalating staffing crisis because Tory ministers have refused to back up the plan with the cash that is so desperately needed.” 

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