Consultants should work from home, admin staff upskilled and school leavers recruited in ‘a new workforce model’ aimed at reducing NHS waiting times.
Professor Sir Mike Richards, the new chair of the National Screening Committee, an independent body which makes screening recommendations to health leaders, has proposed the radical changes.
These include allowing non-clinical staff to receive training for jobs such as operating scanning machines in cancer diagnostic centres, to free doctors’ time and allow them to monitor patients online.
Prof Richards, a former chief inspector of hospitals at the Care Quality Commission, told The Times that changes in staffing “across the board” could ease the backlog of more than 1.6 million people waiting for diagnostic tests.
“It is a question of using every lever rather than just saying it can’t be done… it can be done, but it’s going to be hard work.”
Upskilling NHS staff
He added that the NHS needs to recruit more school leavers in a new workforce model.
“We could get people in at the starting rates – the school leavers who would otherwise go and stack shelves or be at the tills of supermarkets,” he said. “We need to make sure that people see that healthcare is a very rewarding field.
“We’re bringing in apprentices, this is a new career pathway. You can learn it on the job, get paid on the job, and then work up the ladder. There’s a lot we can do by bringing in support workers so that we can free up radiographers, for example.”
He said hospital trusts could retain some of the doctors close to retirement by offering more flexibility.
“One of the ways we can retain staff is by enabling them to do home-reporting of [x-rays and scans] so they work from home,” Richards told The Times.
The Department of Health and Social Care said there are record numbers of doctors, nurses and healthcare staff and that NHS England had recently been commissioned to develop a long-term workforce strategy.