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Society gives cautious welcome to NHS People Plan

3 August, 2020

Author: Dean Rogers, SoR Director of Industrial Strategy and Member Relations

NHS People Plan

The Society and College of Radiographers have offered a cautious welcome to the recently published NHS People Plan for England.

Immediate proposals include:

  • A recruitment and retention strategy, including working with universities to increase the number of undergraduate places by more than 5000 for healthcare students from September 2020.
  • More funding for clinical placements, including for radiographers.
  • Incentives to support former staff returning to the NHS, including consolidation of pension changes brought in for returners during the pandemic.

The People Plan also includes some practical short-term measures that staff will welcome, such as:

  • Commitments to increase opportunities for flexible working
  • Introducing Wellbeing Guardians and improving access to high quality welfare and support services for staff
  • Support for risk assessments for vulnerable staff, and
  • Guarantees of ‘safe spaces’ for rest and recuperation.

The plan recognises long-term challenges, including more support for managers to engage staff, with actions to support a more caring culture. The report specifically makes the link to high recorded levels of discrimination, violence and bullying against staff, including racism, and how this undermines retention.

The SoR will be digesting the full report and issuing a more comprehensive assessment and guidance over the coming weeks. We will prepare briefings for Society reps and explore how we can use the aspirations in the People Plan to test, support or challenge local employer initiatives and responses.

Publication of the plan was delayed to reflect emerging learning from managing Covid-19 and it covers a shorter period than was originally expected (now only 2020-21). It is inevitable that it will be interim and also largely aspirational. We share the aspirations and welcome the practical measures as a good start, however we suspect that implementing even these modest starting points across all of the NHS will be challenging. 

This is especially evident in radiography where the pressure point around staffing is probably more acute than any other area of the NHS and forecast to get more challenging again. The continuing hostile environment policy at the Home Office and the UK leaving the EU, make meeting stated aspirations for international recruitment and retention look hugely ambitious.

The measures to recruit more people from across the UK into our profession are barely credible. Much more must be done to make this goal achievable.

Flexible working highlights a core challenge but that means funding and securing a far bigger pool of qualified staff. We are receiving questions about proposed reductions of existing flexible working arrangements because there just aren’t enough staff to meet demand, so moving in this direction would be an enormous culture shift for radiography departments.

The first test will be supporting staff whose childcare arrangements are chaotic if schools return part-time in September. 

The longer-term strategy will need significantly more detail and huge input from ourselves and other professional associations if it is to get the NHS closer to meeting our shared aspirations.

We are the NHS: People Plan for 2020/2021 - action for us all

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