Almost half of those working in NHS staffing roles are dissatisfied due to the crippling job pressures they face.
Research from NHS Employers has found that 45% of people working in medical staffing face increased workloads and resource constraints, and often feel they are overlooked or their roles misunderstood.
Although many feel they work alongside a supportive team and value the contribution they make to the NHS, over half (58%) worry there is no dedicated time for training and development, with 50% citing work pressures and 40% blaming tight deadlines.
The NHS currently has 132,000 open vacancies as services try to deal with backlogs in care and face a potentially challenging winter. Around 1,000 people work in pay, rota generation and workforce provision across the NHS, the organisation estimates.
One of the biggest challenges for NHS staffing teams is managing the “August changeover”, the annual rotation of doctors and dentists in training, it found.
The report also revealed that the specialist skills often required to complete medical staffing tasks can create a barrier to collaboration with other HR colleagues.
The survey found that the more senior the role, the higher the job satisfaction, however. Rota coordinators, for example, have much higher levels of dissatisfaction (44%) than other roles at higher bands.
That said, retention is a problem. Colleagues in the earlier years of their career often leave in the first two years, citing the lack of training and career development opportunities as part of that decision.
Just over seven in 10 respondents said they felt the amount of time they are given for training is not sufficient to keep up with the knowledge needed for their role.
Organisations where there was strong stakeholder communication tended to show higher elements of satisfaction, whereas employers where this was lacking – particularly in relation to policy changes or workforce information – tended to receive concerns.
Respondents also said they would like to promote more understanding of what medical staffing involves, with some saying “we have no voice”, or “we feel forgotten about”. They felt medical staffing managers often receive no support despite their vital role.
“We… keep getting moved around because nobody really understands what our job role is,” said one.
NHS Employers has called for greater awareness of the “unique contribution” made by medical staffing teams both at trust and external stakeholder level.
It added that there was a need to build greater resilience in these teams, through more cross working with HR and organisational development. Medical staffing itself should be recognised as a specialism with accompanying standards around professional development, it said.
The research also raised questions around the need for prior HR knowledge and qualifications in medical staffing roles. Respondents showed a diversity of viewpoints on this, ranging from feeling a CIPD qualification or previous experience would help them support the wider HR agenda, through to junior colleagues feeling this was less relevant.
Survey respondents felt career development pathways for medical staffing professionals could be clearer, with structures often inconsistent across different trusts.
Paul Wallace, director of employment relations and reward at NHS Employers said: “Staff working in the medical staffing workforce feel ‘unseen’, overlooked, over-worked and unsupported.
“We keep getting moved around because nobody really understands what our job role is.” – NHS survey respondent
“They play a key role in supporting staff working across the NHS which has been particularly challenging during Covid as vacancies and staff absences increased. The NHS is facing a staffing crisis and it’s important that their views are listened to or we risk exacerbating existing workforce shortages across the NHS.”
This is the first time an NHS body has surveyed medical staffing professionals about their career perceptions.
Professor Sheona MacLeod, medical director of reform and professional development at Health Education England, said they were a “crucial part of the NHS”.
She said: “HEE manages rotations to ensure that our postgraduate doctors on training pathways get the best opportunities to cover the curriculum and experience of many different working environments.
“This movement is enabled and supported by the medical staffing workforce. When supported, their expertise can greatly reduce the stresses for doctors changing posts. With the insight from this report, we can work with teams to improve their working experience and the positive impact they can have on doctors’ training experience.”