NHS England has said any further voluntary redundancies as part of its restructure will be offered in a “very targeted way”, as it has already seen many departures and needs to “protect public money and keep people in employment”.
NHS England set out the next steps in its major restructuring programme in an email to staff on Thursday. The programme is due to remove around 9,000 posts, following NHSE’s merger with Health Education England and NHS Digital. It has seen several delays, and is now due to be completed early next year.
An initial voluntary redundancy programme was carried out between February and spring. NHSE has not said how many people were given voluntary redundancy, but the scheme was popular and it is thought more than 1,000 left.
Previously NHSE said it planned to carry out a further wave of voluntary redundancies later in the year, which some staff expected to be again popular.
But yesterday’s update to staff said: “A combination of the 2022-23 voluntary redundancy scheme, recruitment controls, and people securing jobs outside NHS England means we are already closer to our new organisational size.”
These reductions so far, and NHSE’s intention that “most colleagues” whose roles are cut will “secure suitable alternative employment” internally, means the organisation “expect[s] the requirement for any further redundancy – compulsory or voluntary – to be lower than previously anticipated”.
There were also already many vacant posts when the process began last summer.
The redundancy programme was set a £100m budget in 2022-23, which it is thought will also have to cover further redundancies in 2023-24.
NHSE’s update went on: “Given this position, we will only run a further voluntary redundancy scheme in a very targeted way where it would reduce the need for compulsory redundancy for people who are placed at risk at the end of the stage. In many directorates and regions, this will likely not be necessary.
“This is in line with our commitment to keep people in employment, protect public money, and minimise the impact on individuals.
“The earliest any voluntary redundancy scheme will run would be towards the end of 2023… and will not be open to everyone.”
New structures are expected to be finalised for all NHSE’s teams and directorates as part of “stage two” of its process between September and December. The next phase – when people can apply for or be matched to other roles internally, with those at risk of redundancy given priority – is due to begin in January.
NHSE’s email said: “We are committed to minimising redundancies and retaining as much talent as possible within the new NHS England. Stage three is where we will support colleagues who have not been appointed to a role within their directorate pool to identify suitable alternative employment.”
It said there were vacancies in some directorates and regions which needed to be filled, and these would be made available to people “at risk”. In “exceptional circumstances” some will be recruited externally, it said.
According to the latest published data, the number of whole-time equivalent payroll staff across all the NHSE organisations was 17,685 in March (before most of the voluntary redundancies) down from a peak of 17,851 in November, and up from 12,207 in March 2020.
In May, NHSE said there were 24,329 roles in the scope of the programme across all organisations, while the proposed “new” NHSE was expected to have around 15,300 posts.