Plans and Promises

Clinical practice Maternity Services NHS England

Fostering a compassionate and inclusive culture, growing and training the NHS workforce, better physical and mental health support for staff, and working together differently to deliver care. These are the central themes emerging from the People Plan for 2020/21, published this week (30 July) by NHS England and NHS Improvement.

The actions and commitments in the plan are informed by the scale and pace of transformation in recent months and by the flexibility, innovation and collaboration shown throughout the crisis by NHS workers. Specific actions include:

  • Supporting staff to stay well and in work, with the establishment of resilience hubs working in partnership with occupational health to undertake proactive outreach and assessment.
  • Supporting flexible working as the default position for NHS roles. This will include NHS England and NHS Improvement working with the NHS Staff Council to develop guidance to support making this a reality for staff.
  • Completing, and acting on the findings of, risk assessments for all vulnerable staff, including black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues.
  • All NHS organisations to publish progress on ensuring that the workforce is representative, at every level, of the black and minority ethnic workforce.
  • A new recruitment drive to encourage former staff to return to practice, building on the commitment of clinicians who returned to the frontline during the pandemic.
  • An extra 5,000 training places from September 2020 for student midwives, nurses, allied health professionals, dental therapists and hygienists.
  • A £10 million fund for clinical placements for midwives, nurses and allied health professionals
  • The annual NHS staff survey to be supplemented by a quarterly survey that will track staff morale

The plan is accompanied by an NHS People Promise, which is informed by the views of NHS staff on what would improve their working experience, and challenges everyone to join together to make the NHS a better place to work.

This is an ambitious plan and there is much to be welcomed in its proposals, particularly in the focus on recruitment and retention, health and wellbeing and the commitments to BAME communities. We are especially pleased with the proposals for flexible working and that the NHS Staff Council, on which the RCM is represented, will be involved in drawing up guidance to make flexible working a reality for NHS staff. It is also reassuring that the plan includes a commitment to not ‘rolling back’ on improvements to measures introduced during the pandemic to improve the health and wellbeing of NHS staff.

While we applaud the aspirations in the plan, we will want to see these warm words translated into tangible measures that will facilitate safe and high quality care and improved working lives for NHS staff. This must include a commitment to grow the midwifery workforce. We know that many staff are still not taking breaks or adequately hydrating when at work, so action to prioritise staff health and wellbeing is essential. Finally, and this does not feature in the plan, we will be demanding a substantial pay increase for NHS staff.