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NHS needs OBR-style staffing forecasts, says Pritchard

Published on: 16 Nov 2022

The NHS’s forthcoming workforce plan will have to be updated with regular forecasts after it has been published to ensure it stays “credible”, Amanda Pritchard said today.

The NHS England chief executive said the document would have to be kept “up to date” with projections of future workforce needs, revised in the same way the Office for Budget Responsibility adjusts economic forecasts.

NHSE has committed to submitting projections of long-term workforce requirement to the Department of Health and Social Care by April 2023.

Speaking at the NHS Providers annual conference, Ms Pritchard said: “But we know our job is far from over once the plan is released, to maintain credibility and usefulness it’s clear we going to need to update it regularly, similar to how the OBR adjusts its economic forecasts to take account of the latest data, ensuring there’s always the clearest possible view of our future workforce needs.

“This approach will help give us up to date projections on the number of doctors, nurses, paramedics needed, but also wider experts like data scientists and other roles we all recognise as being crucial to supporting patients and clinicians. And by [using] those projections with action to recruit and train the right number of the right staff that will help us reduce our over-reliance on agency staff.”

DHSC officials have not committed to a timeline for publishing the projections, or that they will be published in full.

Asked about local authority deficits and risks they posed to providers, Ms Pritchard said funding sources like the Better Care Fund should be used “absolutely to best effect” but stressed the health service had a “distinct” set of responsibilities.

She said: “There is a separation, we are funded separately to local authorities with different governance. We need to work in partnership but we just need to be clear about what it is that the NHS is distinctly responsible for delivering.

“So, there are some things in the list [of responsibilities] I gave out earlier that we cannot do unless we are working in partnership with social care… discharge being the most obvious but not the only one.

“But there are some things on that list that we have to take responsibility for, and we just have to make sure I think, in wanting to be good partners, that we’re also clear what the distinct responsibilities that we carry and where the partnership approach is absolutely crucial.”