So why does workforce matter? Or, to paraphrase a line from one of my favourite films, ‘what has the workforce ever done for us?’
I do have a vested interest in this, having been both a member of the NHS workforce for 26 years and spending the last seven years working specifically around the workforce agenda. But that does give me a good insight into why the workforce is important and the need not to just focus on what services look like, but also to consider the staff who are delivering those services. Without this consideration, how can we ever expect patients to get the best quality care that we, as care professionals, want to deliver? Working as part of Health Education England has given a new focus on how we have supported both the existing and future workforce by working with our local providers to respond to their needs.
I have just completed a short secondment to the WMAHSN, where it has been fascinating, and a real challenge too, to consider the wider perspective that perhaps we don’t always think of. As the focus of the NHS changes from illness to wellness, we are now seeing a variety of alternate providers and different ways of working becoming part of the service as well as a strong drive towards supporting patients to manage their own health and staying well.
We cannot discount the wider societal benefits of supporting health. There is a proven association between being in employment and better health. By supporting people to stay healthy, they can live more productive lives, but by encouraging the next and future generations to consider the wider range of healthcare careers we will encourage people to consider working in health who may previously not have thought this could be an option for them. Working in the NHS isn’t limited to clinical staff and the variety of different careers is considerable. Everyone who is employed to work in a healthcare environment, whether they are a porter, engineer, caterer, manager or clinician, is privileged to be part of the care system and all have a role and a responsibility to play in caring for people at vulnerable times
The life sciences and healthcare industry sectors are as much a part of delivering health and care as the front line staff. Now too, we are hearing about new ways to deliver care and manage health, not just through different IT and technology, but also (and perhaps most significantly) through the advent of the genomics agenda and personalised medicine revolution. What we are increasingly hearing, however, is the need to drive innovation in the NHS and this can only be done by being open to new ideas and new ways of working and receptive to change. The more I hear about genomics, the more this feels like a significant paradigm shift on how we work as care providers, perhaps since the invention and implementation of antibiotics. Here we have a perfect example of a strategic driver for change involving the partnerships being formed between trusts and life sciences, staff and patients, all working together to change the future of healthcare.
So back to the original question about what has the workforce done for us? Put simply, by giving people the right skills they can do their job properly, which results in patients getting the treatments and care that they deserve. Without the workforce, we are nothing.