NHS workforce plan’s message on neuro unclear


On Friday, NHS England published its long awaited ‘NHS Workforce Plan’. This is the first time the government has asked the NHS to come up with a comprehensive workforce plan, labelled a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to put staffing on a sustainable footing and improve patient care”.

Train, retain and reform

The Plan sets out three key themes, namely to: train more doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals; better retain staff by encouraging an inclusive and compassionate culture and improve reward and recognition; and reforming how staff are educated and trained.

Specifically, the Plan:

  • Includes additional funding of £2.4 billion cumulatively to  be invested in education and training over the next six years, on top of current education and training budgets. The funding does not include money for the salaries of additional staff who will join the service during this time.
  • Notes there will be an increase domestic training and recruitment to materially reduce workforce shortfalls by 2028/29, and largely close shortfalls for most professions by 2031/32.
  • States medical school places will need to increase by 60–100%, providing 12,000–15,000 places by 2030/31. There needs to be an increase the number of GP specialty training places by 45–60% by 2033/34.
  • Commits to piloting a medical degree apprenticeship from 2024.
  • Plans to increase training places for mental health nursing by 93% to more than 11,000 places by 2031/32, and to double training places for learning disability nursing over the same time period (to over 1,000 places). They believe there is a sufficient number of training places to meet demand for children’s nursing, but will keep this under review.
  • Will be reviewed every two years.
  • Gives Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) a central role in the ambitions to recruit hundreds of thousands more staff over the next 15 years. They will be responsible for addressing current and future predicted workforce supply requirements in response to local needs.

Our initial response

Georgina Carr, CEO of the Neurological Alliance, said:

“The long awaited NHS workforce plan provides much needed clarity on the staff needed now and in the future, beyond political cycles. However, it is not yet clear the extent to which new therapies and the changing needs of people affected by neurological conditions, have been fully considered in the plan. We are working hard to clarify that in the first instance.

The next steps to implement this plan must be developed in partnership with the neurological community. Importantly, we now need a commensurate plan for our social care workforce – social care provision is essential to many people living with and affected by neurological conditions.”

What next

We recently submitted a Freedom of Information request to NHS England, to clarify what projections have been made about the neuro and rehab medical, nursing and allied healthcare professional workforce. We believe a response is in development and await this information.

While the plan is an important first step, it’s success will depend on its implementation and crucially on how it addresses the key challenges facing many people affected by neurological conditions. These include delays to, or long waits for, appointments with specialists and access to mental health and wellbeing support.

Building on our recent Policy Group panel discussion on the needs of the neuro workforce, we will work with people affected by neurological conditions, members and healthcare professional bodies to interrogate the Plan further and ensure it delivers for the 1 in 6 of us with a neurological condition. Going forward, we will work to ensure we have the right evidence in place when the Plan is reviewed in two years time.