WE ARE THE NHS: People Plan 2020/21 – action for us all

The long awaited NHS People Plan for 2020/21 has been published, and updated in the last week, and as you might expect, contains many references to Covid 19. The subtitle for this report is “action for us all” and there is something we will all have to do: a health and wellbeing conversation annually, as of September 2020. The plan states “these conversations may fit within an appraisal, job plan or one-to-one line management discussion”, which may be challenging for both parties. Part of this will be discussion about flexible working, which receives a good amount of coverage in the plan. Staff wellbeing will be the responsibility of a Wellbeing Guardian (board level) as outlined in the HEE NHS Staff and Learners Mental Wellbeing Review. Accountability for delivering the outcomes in the plan will rest ultimately with NHS England and NHS Improvement using the NHS Oversight Framework. The 2019/20 Oversight Framework, however, currently mentions nothing about metrics for staff Health and Wellbeing.

The introduction of the plan emphasises the need for collaboration across health and social care, for more staff, and for existing staff to be looked after and to belong in a compassionate, inclusive and innovative culture. The report is then divided into the following sections:

  • Responding to new challenges and opportunities, including Health and Wellbeing, inequalities, flexible and remote working, and returning staff.
  • Looking after our people, including the people. nhs.uk website, reducing infection risk, , risk assessment of vulnerable staff, rest and respite, preventing bullying, harassment and violence against staff, Wellbeing guardians, support to get to work, safe spaces to rest and recuperate, psychological support and treatment, support through sickness, physically healthy work environments, support to switch off from work, with a large section on how to make the NHS flexible by default.
  • Belonging in the NHS, including the Workforce Racial Equality Standard and the Workforce Disability Equality Standard, the NHS Race and Health Observatory, Health and Wellbeing conversations, leadership diversity, the ethnicity gap in entry into formal disciplinary processes, compassionate and inclusive leadership and the training needed to achieve this.
  • New ways of working and delivering care, including safe and legal deployment, staff ratios, upskilling, developing generalist skills, NHS ambassadors to inspire the future workforce, and expanding e-learning.
  • Growing for the future, including expanding and developing the workforce the non-doctor workforce from all sources including those who have already left, and alignment and collaboration at a system level.
  • Supporting our NHS people for the long term, this section summarises the document.

The elephant in the room is of course the lack of funds with which to deliver all these plans and no reference is made to the stark warning at the end of July 2020 from research undertaken by the Nuffield Trust. This research showed that we rank in the bottom third of 31 comparable countries when it comes to four of the six measures of healthcare capacity: capital spending, doctors per person, hospital beds per person and acute bed occupancy. The plan states “Further action for 2021/22 and beyond is expected to be set out later in the year, once funding arrangements for future years have been confirmed by the government”. Let’s make sure we get what we need by reminding our local MPs.

Access the full report here.

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