The publication of the NHS Workforce Plan on the eve of its 75th birthday represents a landmark moment for the UK healthcare system.
It both acknowledges the ongoing supply and demand mismatch within healthcare and seeks to provide a comprehensive long-term strategy. With a core focus on training, reform and investment, the plan contains a range of initiatives detailed to grow the NHS workforce.
Here, we unpack 5 key takeaways for digital healthcare.
1: Investment in technology
The plan states an aim to increase capacity and work differently “taking full advantage of digital and technological innovations.”
Such a focus is welcome. Solving the challenges of today and tomorrow will not only depend on a significantly larger workforce, but also fresh approaches to support efficiency and ease pressure on care teams. Digital tools are a foundational element for success and a key enabler for productivity gains outlined by proposals.
Here at Livi, we see the impact digital technology can have first hand working with our primary care partners. Whether it’s reducing DNAs through smart message platforms, providing remote capacity at scale via digital channels, or supporting care navigation through optimised patient platforms and health and care websites.
“Limited historical investment in estate and technology is negatively impacting labour productivity.” - NHS Long Term Workforce Plan
Alongside embracing the ‘art of the possible’ there is also a need to get some of the basics right. Indeed, findings published within the recent The House of Commons' Health and Social Care Committee report, Digital Transformation in the NHS, reveal that basic IT systems and infrastructure require significant improvement. This will be essential to supporting care providers to meet the demands of a modern health system.
With studies suggesting clinicians spend more than 70% of their time on administrative tasks, we can do more to alleviate some of the burden on care teams.
The plan outlines gains that could potentially be made through AI and automation. This includes the application of speech recognition technology to clinical documentation and records.
Already in use in some areas of the system, a physician-patient conversation can now be transcribed and ordered into accurate notes. As soon as a clinician begins to type about a patient’s symptoms or prognosis, suggestions can be made, populated and edited by the treating physician. This could further help to increase capacity and give clinicians and teams more time to focus on what matters most of all – patient care.
Indeed, the Topol Review estimates that one minute could be saved per patient consultation. This could equate to roughly 5.7 million hours of GP consultation time and 400,000 hours of emergency department consultation time.
3: Serving complex populations
Today, the healthcare system is facing growing and increasingly complex, elderly patient populations. This has caused demand to increase exponentially, outstripping clinical supply. With predictions that the number of people aged 85 and over will grow by 55% in the next 15 years, the system needs new solutions to serve rising multimorbidity and those living with chronic conditions.
The role of genomics is highlighted within the plan for its potential to facilitate earlier diagnosis and treatment of disease. This is reflective of an ethos to move the health system from ‘responding to care’ to focusing more on prevention.
“Genomics and artificial intelligence in particular will transform our ability to prevent, diagnose, treat and manage disease, supporting a shift towards better prevention of disease and more personalised care outside hospital.” - NHS Long Term Workforce Plan
Additionally, the plan recognises the role digital technology can play in supporting delivery of care in low cost settings, outside of hospital and closer to home.
Examples noted include hospital at home programmes and virtual wards. These models can also facilitate involvement of multidisciplinary skill sets which have many benefits for at-risk patient groups. While digital tools can also enable ongoing condition management and remote monitoring, helping people stay healthier for longer outside of hospital.
4: Building digital expertise
There are also aims to grow digital skill sets within the NHS. It is said that this endeavour “will change ways of working, releasing staff time to focus on patient care.”
Initiatives highlighted include the launch of a digital skills assessment tool, the Digital Learning Solutions platform, the NHS Digital Academy, the Health Innovation Placements Programme and Fast Futures Programmes. While The Ives Review will set the stage for building digital skills within nursing and midwifery.
“With strong local leadership and management, combined with enabling technology, the use of more diverse roles will change the skills required to meet patient needs and will expand the capacity of community services to deliver this type of care.” - NHS Long Term Workforce Plan
5: System working
NHS England recognises the crucial role of ICSs in connecting the NHS to local authorities, system partners and improving population health. Care delivery at a system level is said to require “sufficient capacity and technical capability for workforce planning.”
To that end, NHS England will provide a new tool to support ICSs with system-level workforce intelligence, alongside an accredited Strategic Workforce Planning course.
NHS England will also “take measures that allow greater mobility of staff across boundaries and sectors through collaborative banks.” It is noted that all ICSs now have a primary care flexible pool that supports staff to work across a locality’s different primary care settings.
Both initiatives rightfully reflect the importance of capacity optimisation. Flexible, border-spanning resource and optimal planning are both required to meet emerging needs in a given footprint. This can be ably supported through digital platforms of course. At Livi, capacity optimisation is one of the core ways we serve integrated care partners, delivering flexible clinical resource that scales to meet demand.
Want to learn more?
Read the full NHS Long Term Workforce Plan here.
How can we help you?
Livi is the UK’s leading digital healthcare provider. We partner with the NHS and increase capacity of GP practices, primary care networks, integrated care systems and urgent care services.
We help to optimise access so patients receive the right care at the right time. While our digital tools and platforms drive efficiencies and support partners to serve rising patient demand.