Don’t play the numbers game in the health service

I read with interest your news story ‘Health service slammed over disastrous workforce planning’ (Personnel Today, 3 April).

I have to say it appeared a little selective in its content. Workforce planning is all about ensuring that the right people (in terms of numbers and skills) are in the right place at the right time. This would follow naturally from sound strategic planning by the board – and this may be where the difficulty arises.

In the story, it said that “newly qualified staff have been unable to find jobs as a result”. I am, therefore, assuming that the MPs were referring to doctors.

The significance here is that for many years the British Medical Association and General Medical Council have controlled the number of doctors being trained, with little or no regard to the needs of the health service.

Consequently, now that a wider group is looking at this issue, the forecast is that there will be too many doctors, and too few nurses in the future. Thus the doctors are not happy, and have probably rattled a few MPs’ cages to get a response that points the finger of blame for poor planning elsewhere.

While it may be fair to say that there are those in HR who do not possess the skills for workforce planning, in my experience of workforce planning in the NHS, there are far more other managers and clinicians lacking the time, skills or inclination to do so in a meaningful manner. And while the NHS continues to function on the short-term targets of a transient minister, this will probably continue.

Rob Key, organisational development practitioner, HQ HR, NHS National Services Scotland

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