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Service designJun 30, 2023

NHS England finally unveils its long-term workforce plan, with the CSP giving it a cautious welcome

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) has given a cautious welcome to the release this morning (30 June) of NHS England’s NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

For the first time, the plan sets out long-term workforce projections in the NHS – one being that, with retention improvements, there will be 71,000 more physiotherapists and other allied health professionals in place by 2036-2037. An extra 60,000 doctors and 170,000 more nurses are also promised.

Along with many of other healthcare organisations, the CSP has been voicing increasing concerns about the current staffing gaps that are blighting the NHS, with vacancy numbers now standing at 112,000. Repeated delays over the release of the workforce plan have created increasing levels of frustration.

In a statement, chief executive Karen Middleton said: ‘The CSP has called for a funded workforce plan for at least the last 10 years, so this is a step forward by NHSE. The bottom line is we need more physios and physio support workers working in the NHS.

‘Of course, we will offer constructive challenge where needed, but having this plan allows us to have meaningful discussions with NHS England, and local NHS bodies, about how to expand and develop NHS physiotherapy.'

 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
The plan says 71,000 more physiotherapists and other AHPs will be in place by 2036-2037

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Tackling the high number of vacancies

The plan sets out how the huge number of vacancies in the NHS will be tackled, with the gap potentially growing to 360,000 by 2037 if no action is taken. Factors such as the growing ageing population, and the development of new treatments and therapies, are adding pressures, NHS England said.

The plan also aims to reduce the NHS’s reliance on expensive agency staffing that could cut the bill for taxpayers by around £10 billion from 2030-2031 to 2036-2037.

Key changes by 2031

  • double medical school training places to 15,000, with more places in areas with the greatest shortages
  • increase the number of GP training places by 50 per cent to 6,000
  • almost double the number of adult nurse training places by 2031, with 24,000 more nurse and midwife training places a year by then 

Of course, we will offer constructive challenge where needed, but having this plan allows us to have meaningful discussions with NHS England, and local NHS bodies, about how to expand and develop NHS physiotherapy [Karen Middleton, CSP]

Steve Barclay, the health and social care secretary, said: ‘The NHS is the biggest employer in the country and holds the affection of the British people because of the staff who work around the clock to care for us. The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, backed by significant government investment, shows our determination to support and grow the workforce.

‘It sets out how we will deliver the biggest expansion of staff training in NHS history, retain more talented people and harness cutting-edge technology.’

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the plan offered ‘hope’ to the million-plus staff working in the NHS in England who have been ‘holding out for such a comprehensive plan to boost recruitment and retention’.

‘We see this plan as the crucial first leg in a three-legged stool that the NHS needs to revive and thrive – the other two being an equivalent plan for the social care workforce, alongside extra investment in capital and technology. Both will be required to achieve the plan’s laudable ambitions, particularly when it comes to the level of productivity increases that are envisaged.’

And Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: ‘Employers will hugely welcome this ambitious plan to boost workforce numbers over the course of its 15-year lifespan. A long-term assessment of what we need and how we get there in terms of staffing has long been needed, and to see this finally delivered, along with crucial government investment, is a significant step forward for the NHS and its people.’

Meanwhile, Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: 'The publication of today’s workforce strategy will be an important milestone for both staff and patients, and in reinforcing public faith in the NHS. We have been clear for a long time that the enormous challenges the NHS faces cannot be met without sufficient numbers of staff, and we hope that this plan will address the long term workforce issues relating to retention and recruitment.'

Ms Power added: 'We will assess the workforce strategy on two points; will it result in the expansion of safe, effective and compassionate care, and will it allow more patients to become partners in their own care and in the design and delivery of the services they use. Patient involvement in how the workforce strategy is implemented will be key to making it a success.'

Author: Ian A McMillan
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