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National research confirms COVID-19 impact on NHS workforce

by Lisa Carr

A report released today by Skills for Health confirms that the pandemic has had wider than expected
consequences on our NHS and wider health and care workforce which will continue to significantly
influence service delivery for some time to come.

This vital national research is based on the Covid-19 Workforce Survey, which was conducted by
Skills for Health in June 2020, and received a substantial 2950 responses from those working across
our NHS, and wider health and care services. The findings, analysed by the Sector Skills Council for
Health’s leading Research Division, clearly show that following three months of extreme change in
the sector, organisations suffered severe skills loss. The report highlights the critical issues which
contributed to this, with the aim of supporting the sector to rebuild and reset for a sustainable
future, both now and in the long-term.

Jon Parry, Head of Research and Evaluation, Skills for Health said: “This report is the first step in our
efforts to provide intelligence and support which will help guide a path to recovery in terms of service
delivery, and most importantly, ensure that employee well-being is at the forefront of future ways of
working.”

Andrew Lovegrove, Senior Workforce Development Consultant, Skills for Health starts to consider
some of the key insights outlined in the report here. As an expert in workforce planning and skills
development, he looks at a few of the crucial challenges highlighted in the research and how
organisations can begin to develop the practical solutions needed moving forward.

Nearly a quarter say skills will be lost due to COVID-19.

A variety of reasons were identified as to why organisations are losing skills from their workforce as
a result of the pandemic, including staff retiring, or resigning early due to burnout, staff illness, and
in some cases sadly death of a staff member. Some staff have also had to self-isolate or stay at home
to care for family members suffering from coronavirus. This has meant that valuable skills have been
lost altogether or taken out of service for an extended period.

Andrew commented: “The immediate fallout from COVID-19 is going to be with us for a long time.
We need to think differently; not just about how we deliver our services but crucially who is going to
provide them and in what way.’’

Furthermore, organisational change and ways of working can be tangibly linked to skills needs in the
future, with nearly 100% of respondents stating that infection prevention and control, as well as
conveying information effectively, will be a key future skill.

Over 95% thought that dealing with out of the ordinary situations and the appropriate use of
equipment, facilities, and materials would be crucial for staff going forward.

Andrew adds: ‘’Sustainable change is not just about fixing things in the short-term; flexible working
(such as home-working) brings its own set of challenges. We need to assess the negatives as well as
the positives of these issues; work out ‘what’s worked and what hasn’t?’ Only when we know this can
we make more impactful long-term changes.’’

70% say training needs have increased.

The issues uncovered in the report understandably correlate to the key focuses outlined in the
recently published NHS People Plan. Now, Skills for Health want to ensure that paired with this
crucial research, workforce planning and development teams can implement the practical, evidence
based measures to support the recovery and sustainable growth of a highly skilled workforce for the
future, that meets the ambitions set out in front of them.

Almost half of employers report their organisational structure will look different.

Andrew’s final comments: “We’ve long advocated that workforce planning and development is a
vital activity of any health organisation. COVID-19 has highlighted that we’ll ‘fail’ without adequate
people planning. Our team at Skills for Health are ready to help with a range of solutions to
understand and practically see to the challenges presented in these Covid-19 Workforce Survey
findings.”

Skills for Health, the Sector Skills Council for Health, and leading experts in workforce planning and
skills development, support the NHS, wider health, and social care providers throughout the UK to
develop workforce solutions to support the public health needs of the future.

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