Alastair Currie, Partner, Bevan Brittan LLP
How will employers, commissioners and policy makers ensure they have the “right people, with the right skills, in the right place” to support changing healthcare needs over the next 10 years?
That was the topic discussed by a panel of experts at Bevan Brittan’s recent Workforce Forum. The wide ranging discussion of the Health and Social Care Workforce Vision for 2031 touched on integration of social and health care, digitisation, inclusivity and inequality.
“The need to adapt, plan and innovate for a fit for purpose health and social care workforce over the next 10 years has never been more pressing given the continuing workforce supply challenges, both globally and in the UK,” explained Alastair Currie, a partner in Bevan Brittan’s employment team who was chairing the session.
Shifting the perception of social care
Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive, Care England highlighted the significant challenges facing social care, with 167K vacancies currently and a turnover rate of 30%. He said:
“Social care is seen as a low skilled job. That perception must change, so that social care workers are viewed as professionals.”
Identifying the skills that social care workers have and benchmarking them against the skills in other sectors, as well as looking at remuneration will help make social care an attractive profession according to Professor Green.
“We need a skills and competency framework across sectors. Having a truly integrated health and social care system, with career escalators across the system, is vital.”
Leanne Gardiner, Transformation Director, InHealth Group believes that transformation is about people and that the focus should be on ensuring jobs in health and social care meaningful.
“We need to be thinking now about how we integrate humans and robots. Robot process automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning can help us achieve more for less.”
Leanne argues that robots have the potential to make health and social care work more fulfilling. “Robots can allow humans to get back to the meaningful, patient-centric parts of the job, where human connection is required.
“Robots should be used in situations where there is a right and wrong answer, and where humans set those rules.”
Robotic enabled recruitment technologies, which are simple to overlay and can be made to feel special and roboticised bite-sized learning, were highlighted as examples by Leanne.
Another transformation Leanne predicts is a move towards blended roles, such as HR, IT and procurement working together.
Inclusivity and equality
If we are to meet the challenges of the future, we must pay attention to equality now, says Cheryl Samuels, Deputy Director Workforce Transformation, NHSEI London. “Care must be for everyone, so we need to have leaders with lived experience that have links and contacts with different groups who can make a material difference and close the inequality gap. We need an anti-racist mindset.”
Cheryl discussed the #InclusiveHR social movement for change which aims to improve diversity in the HR profession, which is currently dominated by white females, with a disproportionate number of Black Asian and minority ethnic HR professionals at the top of the profession. She said: “HR needs to be representative and inclusive in terms of mindset, actions and behaviours’. How can we ensure the rest of the organisation is inclusive if we are not?
“Leading by example is essential as we step forward into the future with integrated care organisations, where the focus on inequalities needs to be clearly understood. Until HR is able to be visibly and credibly trailblazing equality, diversity and inclusion in action, we will not be able to influence and change the culture of organisations to improve the current staff experience.”
This social movement for change across the profession aims to highlight the stark workforce inequalities, with a view to introducing deliberate interventions that will start to reverse the current trend, such as having open conversations, the sharing of leadership journeys, safe spaces to challenge and learn.
In addition, the introduction of an anti-racist leadership development programme, is key to creating inclusive cultures which aims to create a cohort of positive disruptors to challenge the status quo.
Strategic digital opportunities
The health and social care sector should embrace the potential for strategic digital opportunities to benefit its workforce according to Andy Armitage, Chief Executive Officer, Liaison.
“Over the next 10 years, we need to develop one HR technology platform, with a rostering element that is skills based, to match staff to demand. This would provide a live picture of how you are managing demand and supply of staff.”
Andy also suggested the use of one App for employees, to give them their own personal account where they can view all of the information they need.
“We need to make life less stressful for people by keeping it simple, with one log in that will give staff access to everything they need from booking holidays and switching shifts to accessing training and wellbeing initiatives.
“The technology should also be used to pay people immediately for any extra shifts they do. This will have a big impact on wellbeing too.”
Predictive analysis is another emerging area that could benefit the health and social case sector. “Once we have good data, it can be pulled together and used to make predictions. For example, you could look at workforce data to predict if a proposed wellbeing initiative is likely to have an impact.”