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New national plan to radically reduce time taken to recruit NHS staff

Published on: 30 Jun 2023

NHS England has begun work to modernise the way in which the service recruits staff, and has committed to reducing the average time taken to appoint staff from 10 to six weeks.

HSJ has obtained a copy of NHSE’s draft Overhauling Recruitment Strategic Implementation Plan. The document includes a detailed critique of current practices and complains NHS recruitment methods have “been the same for decades”.

The plan says this failure to move with the times has left the NHS with a plethora of outdated and inefficient recruitment processes.

These include a “piecemeal” approach to advertising vacancies; and little effort to determine which adverts are effective. Typical NHS job descriptions are described as “voluminous, full of jargon and fail[ing] to paint a true picture of what a role does”.

Application forms are criticised for being “too long” and giving advantage to those who know how to complete them, while shortlisting of candidates is “cumbersome” and takes up too much time.

The NHS is criticised for relying “too much on standard interview panels… when we know that multi-selection approaches better support people from underrepresented backgrounds to demonstrate their potential”. This, says the draft plan, is just one of the ways the service “favour[s] meeting criteria over potential”.

The plan says the complicated nature of NHS recruitment results in it taking an average of “[10] weeks from an advert being placed to a candidate receiving a confirmation of a start date”. This is described as “excessive”.

The new strategy

The NHSE plan says the “first and important bold step” to remedy this situation is to “invest” in recruitment. It says that “in the future our talent acquisition services will be multi-professional teams that are focused on reducing burden on front line managers”.

The plan continues: “Efficiency will continue to be the focus and in delivering this strategic plan, we will seek to ensure that any candidate that applies for a role within the NHS reaches the stage of a confirmed start date within six weeks.”

The new approach to recruitment will make more use of the NHS logo, which the plans says “evokes positive, rational and emotional associations of trust, confidence, security and a sense of dependability”.

NHSE says it will exploit use of the logo to “maximise the potential of national advertising campaigns and do this in a planned and strategic way which allows all organisations across the country to benefit”.

NHSE is to appoint a senior responsible officer to develop national user specifications for the digital recruitment platforms and tools the service uses.

The plan says the approach will be included in the long-term workforce plan, which is due to be published later today. 

NHSE was approach for comment.