Last week, the NHS released an interim People Plan. Following on from the NHS Long Term Plan released in January, the People Plan focuses on the health service’s vision for NHS employees and the immediate action needed to stave off a staffing and culture crisis.
There is a huge amount to be encouraged by in this report. It’s an honest, nuanced look at the challenges currently facing our health service. In recognising that the NHS needs to become an “inclusive and modern employer if we are to attract and retain the people we need”, the institution is taking a big step towards accelerating much-needed modernisation of how it supports its staff.
To see the People Plan acknowledge that “our people want to have more flexible careers and a better work/life balance” is music to my ears, as of course Patchwork’s core purpose is to create tools that help clinical staff achieve greater work-life balance. We enable them to use technology to retain their skills within our hospital wards, whilst also protecting NHS budgets.
As the wider world of work has rapidly evolved, the NHS has been stuck in a time-warp. As clinicians have seen friends and family benefit from an increase in flexible working, and the introduction of technologies to automate mundane tasks and make others easier, NHS teams have been battling decades-old systems and frustrations.
With increasing pressures and, in many cases, decreasing resources, it’s no surprise that sickness absence in the NHS is “2.3 percentage points higher than in the rest of the economy” and that we lose one in eleven staff permanently each year. Staff are doing their best, but as we know, many are reaching breaking point.
The ambition, therefore, to “make the NHS, already the largest employer in England, also the best” is laudable. Putting this at the top of the agenda is long overdue.
As a health tech provider, it’s not surprising that we also agree with the report’s assessment that technology will enable staff “to work to their full potential”. We are strong believers in the impact that carefully designed, empathetic technology can have on the NHS and its people. Money-saving and efficiency are core benefits, naturally, but the impact technology can have on well-being and workplace satisfaction is just as important.
As the report states: “we must put workforce planning at the centre of our overall planning processes”. Without its staff, the NHS wouldn’t exist. All stakeholders must therefore do everything in their power to ensure the ambitions of the People Plan are realised before it’s too late. We must protect, support and retain our clinicians to stem the tide of those leaving.
And, at Patchwork, we’re working hard to play a small part in this most vital of revolutions.