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‘Another interim stop-gap’: The King’s Fund response to NHS People Plan 20/21

Suzie Bailey, Director of Leadership and Organisational Development at The King’s Fund, commented on the expected NHS People Plan and related government announcements 

‘It’s been over a year since the NHS People Plan was originally due to be launched, yet today’s publication is another interim stop-gap and falls a long way short of the workforce strategy the NHS so desperately needs. Delays to government spending decisions mean the plan lacks the long-term investment and concrete commitments needed to recruit the doctors, nurses and other staff needed to address workforce shortages and meet the government’s manifesto commitments.

‘Even before the pandemic, the UK health and care workforce was in a state of crisis, with high levels of work-related stress, reports of overworked staff looking to leave their jobs, and a shortage of around 40,000 nurses. Although today’s plan includes some welcome measures to support the health and wellbeing of staff and tackle discrimination, warm words will be worth little without a credible implementation plan.

On retaining staff, Suzie said:

‘Retention is arguably the key priority, especially with so many staff suffering from burnout and significant numbers, particularly nurses, intending to leave the sector. The renewed focus on developing inclusive and compassionate leadership cultures, including increased action on race inequalities, is very welcome. The lives of ethnic minority staff are still blighted by racism and it is vital to seize the moment created by the impact of Covid-19 and the efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement to eradicate the inequalities many staff face.

‘It’s positive that staff health and wellbeing has profile in the plan, but more emphasis is required on treating the cause and not just the symptoms. Chronic excessive workloads have become normalised, with more than half of NHS staff working beyond their paid hours. A clear message from national leaders is needed to make clear that this is neither acceptable nor desirable, alongside a concerted effort to address it at all levels of the health and care system.

On the workforce challenges in the social care sector, Suzie added:

‘Today’s announcement is about the NHS workforce, but the social care sector faces similarly stark staffing shortfalls and the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted how essential these key workers are. It is imperative that any initiatives to increase the NHS workforce don’t inadvertently take staff from the social care workforce.’

Notes to editors

For further information, or to request an interview, please contact the Press and Public Affairs team on 07584 146035 or

The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.

NHS recovery to put staff wellbeing at its heart

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