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Flexible working must become the norm, says NHS People Plan

Long-awaited retention and recruitment plan says NHS must build on change related to COVID-19
Picture shows the hands of a person looking at a computer screen that is displaying a work roster, with a medic in the background

Long-awaited retention and recruitment plan says NHS must build on changes brought about by COVID-19

All clinical roles in the NHS should operate under flexible working patterns in the future, according to the new NHS People Plan .

The governments long-awaited plan is part of a five-year strategy to address recruitment and retention in the NHS.

Plan to retain and recruit NHS staff

The newly published plan says the NHS must build on the flexible working changes emerging through COVID-19 to become a modern and model employer and retain talent.

Between 2011 and 2018 more than 56,000 people left NHS employment citing work-life balance as the reason, the plan says. We cannot afford to lose any more of our people.

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Long-awaited retention and recruitment plan says NHS must build on changes brought about by COVID-19

Picture shows the hands of a person looking at a computer screen that is displaying a work roster, with a medic in the background
Picture: Jim Varney

All clinical roles in the NHS should operate under flexible working patterns in the future, according to the new NHS People Plan.

The government’s long-awaited plan is part of a five-year strategy to address recruitment and retention in the NHS.

Plan to retain and recruit NHS staff

The newly published plan says the NHS must build on the flexible working changes emerging through COVID-19 to become ‘a modern and model employer’ and retain talent.

‘Between 2011 and 2018 more than 56,000 people left NHS employment citing work-life balance as the reason,’ the plan says. ‘We cannot afford to lose any more of our people.’

The plan says many people in the NHS go onto bank rotas or leave because they do not have the flexibility they need as an employee to combine work with their personal commitments.

It acknowledges that the NHS has a higher than average proportion of people with caring responsibilities.

Flexibility is one area where employers should make improvements

The plan encourages employers to make progress in the following areas:

  • Being open to all clinical and non-clinical permanent roles being flexible. Requests for flexibility should not require a justification, and as far as possible should be offered regardless of role, team, organisation and grade.
  • Covering flexible working in standard induction conversations for new starters and annual appraisals.
  • Implementation and effective use of e-rostering systems, accelerating roll-out where possible.
  • Rolling out the new working carers passport – use this to support conversations about what support would be helpful, including establishing and protecting flexible working patterns.

Employers are also urged to focus attention more widely on staff health and well-being by supporting staff with free car parking for the duration of the pandemic, psychological support, safe rest spaces and physically healthy work environments.

Practical actions based on what staff say matters to them

NHS chief people officer Prerana Issar said: ‘This plan aims to make real and lasting change in our NHS to benefit our hardworking staff.

‘It includes practical actions based on what our people tell us matters to them, including a more equal, inclusive and flexible organisation.’

Healthcare charity the King’s Fund’s director of leadership and organisational development, Suzie Bailey, said: ‘It’s positive that staff health and well-being has profile in the plan, but more emphasis is required on treating the cause and not just the symptoms.’


Find out more

We are the NHS: People Plan for 2020/2021 – action for us all


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