Posted on 17/12/2019 by Grace Keenan
This year has been nothing short of eventful, tense and confusing for those working in healthcare. With the outcome of Brexit still unknown, there has been a lot of talk about what the future holds for healthcare professionals. As the UK was preparing for the general election there was a major question mark held over the sector, however, now that we know the country will be led by the Conservative party for the next five years, action and clarity will hopefully follow. Here’s what you need to know about the future of the healthcare sector under a Conservative government and what we hope to see happen in 2020.
What is the current situation?
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said that prevention of ill health is a priority for the government, however the focus for the Conservatives continues to be on NHS front line services that manage acute health care needs - over less visible areas of public spending. The £1bn in cuts to the public health grant since 2015/16 are still yet to be addressed, and beyond health care, there is no reversal of reductions in social security.
A focus on recruitment
We do welcome the government’s recognition of the main challenges facing the health service, including critical workforce shortages. The Conservatives have promised to recruit 6,000 GPs and 50,000 more nurses, which is certainly a necessity as a dearth of talent is severely impacting front line services. However, it will not be easy finding all of these skilled individuals in the UK alone. Regardless of major improvements in training, recruitment and retention, it is projected that almost 25,000 nurses would have to be recruited from other countries.
This, of course, means that migration must not be a barrier. In fact, sourcing talent from overseas should be supported – which is why it’s great to see the Tory plan to introduce an NHS visa, which promises fast track entry, reduced fees and dedicated support for those coming to work within our health service. However, it’s important that the government is realistic about what can be achieved, and the timescale of reaching goals, particularly as the number of qualified permanent FTE GPs decreased by around 5% since the last target was set.
Funding must be prioritised
We desperately want and need to see more funding being funnelled to the NHS and in building more hospitals. With an ageing population, and rising demands for services, getting the investment needed for an efficient healthcare system must be prioritised. Maintaining current standards of care will require spending for key areas to increase by at least 3.4% a year – which is £3bn of funding in 2023/24 above current announcements. Investing in and modernising the health service as set out in the NHS long term plan will require an increase of around 4.1% a year – a further £4bn above that figure. Currently, the Conservatives’ overall funding commitment for the NHS amounts to annual increases below the 3.4% needed to just maintain current standards of care in the face of rising demand.
Training and development
While attracting new professionals to the healthcare sector is incredibly important, so is holding on to the skilled workers currently employed. It has been well documented that training and development can help retain staff, and like the many other sectors using these methods to source and keep talent, so should healthcare. In addition to increased levels of retention, ongoing training and development can help strengthen the existing workforce by promoting continual development, morale and happiness.
The Conservative government must allocate funding for upskilling and training healthcare professionals, as this will be a fundamental step in improving the system. An example of a great initiative supported by increased funding is the apprenticeship levy scheme. Since its introduction, it has provided an opportunity for the NHS to significantly scale up its approach to embedding apprenticeships across organisations, supporting the development of the next workforce.
Flexible working is the future
Flexible working is now one of the most sought-after employee benefits, and this trend is likely to stay. Many sectors have adopted some degree of flexible working and top employers are leveraging this to attract the best employees. This is also a factor that we have been increasingly witnessing amongst candidates, and in order to ensure that the sector is not losing out on any skilled professionals, it’s vital that flexible working practices are in place. This is particularly important given the nature of the work, where employees can quickly become stressed or overworked. A Conservative government push in supporting this can ensure the healthcare sector is operating in the best way.
The future of the healthcare sector under a Conservative government
Whilst the Conservative win may well be divisive, hopefully this election win marks the end of the period of uncertainty. At a time when there is a vacancy gap of more than 43,000 in healthcare and funding gap of 4.1 billion, addressing these key issues will be instrumental in the growth and improvement of the sector.
To find out more about how TPP Recruitment can help with healthcare skill shortages, get in touch today.