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NHS must learn from ‘resource poor’ countries, says workforce chief

Published on: 1 Oct 2021

The person charged with determining the NHS’ long-term workforce needs has said the service must learn from “resource poor” countries and their “frugal innovation” when designing future health services and deciding who will staff them.

Speaking at the launch of the University College of London’s Global Business School for Health on Wednesday, Health Education England chief executive Navina Evans said: “The way we deliver healthcare after this pandemic is going to be different. A lot of it [the pandemic] has been pretty awful, but there have also been opportunities to really learn and build on some really good work that has taken place in the last year and a half.

“We have a window to come together across the world to do this work.”

She continued: “In our hearts, we’ve always known that health is global, but [2020-21] has made this far more explicit. We in the NHS in England especially have so much to learn from our colleagues overseas, particularly on improving quality, while driving down cost.

“There’s so much we can learn from resource poor settings and new ways of working, [the] transformation of services that then lead on to workforce transformation. In HEE, we are determined to push that as a way forward as we think about the future workforce. I’d love for us to shift from a UK-centric way of thinking about workforce to one that is genuinely global.”

Dr Evans mentioned nurse-led primary and community care and “frugal innovation in surgery” as two areas where the NHS could learn from overseas.

HEE is already working with the Tropical Health and Education Trust to share learning between the UK and developing countries.

HEE has been commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care to “review long-term strategic trends for the health and social care workforce”.

At the same event, chair of KPMG’s global health practice (and runner up in the race to be the NHS England chief executive) Mark Britnell said: “By 2030, the world will be short of 18 million healthcare workers, some 20 per cent of the total capacity to care. There will be a terrible battle for global talent over [the] next decade.”

A report by the Health Foundation today [Friday] claimed the English NHS would need to recruit “an extra 488,000 health care staff to meet demand pressures and recover from the pandemic” over the next 10 years.

UCL claims its new initiative is “the world’s first business school dedicated to health and healthcare management”.

GBSH director Nora Colton said: “We have a labour force that’s too small for the growing demand for healthcare. We need to not just increase the number of people working in healthcare, but we really need to make them comfortable with technology, with analytics, with leveraging that and working across multidisciplinary sectors to solve these big health challenges.”