Health Select Committee report slams HR in the NHS over ‘disastrous’ workforce planning

HR professionals in the NHS have come under fire following a damning report by MPs on workforce planning in the health service.

The Health Select Committee report said NHS workforce planning had been “a disastrous failure”, with too few people with the ability and skills to do the task. It urged “more time, effort and resources” to be devoted to the challenge.

“Strategic Health Authorities must recruit workforce planners of the highest calibre and ensure that they are supported by staff with appropriate skills,” the committee said. “Most HR staff do not have these skills.”

MPs held an inquiry into workforce planning following signs that the health service was spending too much on staff, with posts being frozen and redundancies becoming commonplace. Training budgets have been cut and newly qualified staff have been unable to find jobs as a result.

“The planning system remains poorly integrated, and there is an appalling lack of co-ordination between workforce and financial planning,” the report said.

NHS Employers – the body responsible for employment issues – said it was “in complete agreement” with the committee on this issue. “We have long made the point that successful planning depends on the close alignment of financial, service and workforce needs,” a spokesman said.

Responsibility for this planning is cross-organisational, not simply the role of the HR director.

“We recognise it is important to ensure the NHS has the skills and capacity in the service to enable HR directors to make a full contribution to the process.”

The Healthcare People Management Association (HPMA) insisted joint working between HR and finance professionals was already under way. Deborah O’Dea, the association’s president, said: “The HPMA is actively promoting the role of HR professionals in successfully leading this work, in conjunction with finance colleagues.”

The HPMA is developing a new workstream for members, called People and Money, to help improve partnership working between finance and HR, O’Dea said.

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