Earlier this month, NHS England launched its new workforce plan, which aims to build a sustainable and resilient healthcare workforce that meets the evolving needs of patients and delivers high-quality care. The plan recognises the importance of recruitment, retention, education, wellbeing, diversity, technology adoption, collaboration, and long-term planning in shaping a successful NHS workforce for the future.

This new plan was met with widespread approval as it was released against a backdrop of increasing workforce challenges in the NHS. These challenges include staff shortages and growing demand, resulting in increased pressure and burnout, further exacerbated by time-consuming administrative processes.

It’s clear therefore that AHSNs, the innovation arm of the NHS, have a role in contributing toward this workforce challenge. Innovations designed to accelerate processes, support service redesign, and create an adoption-ready environment to accept new solutions, are all key to helping close the workforce gap.

Across the AHSN Network, we have created a workforce development collaborative to focus on identifying the workforce benefits of innovation. AHSNs deliver a suite of locally designed programmes to support the needs of their ICSs, alongside some nationally commissioned programmes; the group has developed a set of standard measures to enable us to aggregate the benefits innovation is having for the workforce across all of these initiatives.

Collectively, our innovative work has released more than 350,000 clinical hours back to care this year, which enables frontline staff to focus on what they do best.

The initiatives we have championed include: a tool which speeds up the assessment processes under the mental health act; electronic repeat dispensing systems which have the potential to save millions of GP hours, and nationally the introduction of the QbTest to support a more efficient diagnostic pathway for ADHD.

We’re seeing growing numbers of innovations that offer opportunities to transform the way we work, including automating processes through AI; remote health and remote monitoring; and shared systems enabling greater collaboration between stakeholders.

However, innovation cannot thrive without a supportive culture. Therefore, we have also focussed on solutions that help foster a culture of innovation and improve the skills, knowledge and confidence of staff in adopting new solutions. This year we have supported more than 40,000 staff to improve their knowledge and skills and over 5,000 staff have reported that their experience of providing care has improved as a result of the innovative work they have been involved in.

The NHS workforce challenges require collaborative and innovative solutions, and AHSNs, or health innovation networks as they are set to become in October, are well-positioned to lead the way. By fostering collaboration, driving workforce planning initiatives, promoting education and training, facilitating innovation adoption, supporting complex change and service redesign that optimises the redeployment of resources and evaluating outcomes, we can make a significant impact on the NHS workforce landscape.

To find out more about how innovation can address workforce challenges in the NHS, read our impact report here.


Blog written by Charlotte Hall, AHSN Network Workforce Lead.

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