The NHS employs over 340,000 support workers, working in Bands 1, 2, 3 and 4. They provide a huge proportion of face to face patient care. An organisational wide approach to developing the support workforce can deliver many benefits to the employer, support worker and patient.
A rich skills mix within the support workforce, allows for better flexibility to meet the changing needs of patients, better management of skills shortages and aids recruitment and retention. It can lead to improved staff morale, uphold pledges within the NHS Constitution, provide a career development pathway for junior staff and an access route to the registered professions.
Using a career framework will allow for transferability between employers and make it easier for staff to understand the expectations and standards required of them.
There are challenges and considerations that workforce planners should be aware of when developing their support workforce. Changing the duties of staff can lead to feelings of uncertainty and job insecurity, especially if they feel elements of their role are being removed. Role change in one area may impact change of service delivery, through changes to supervision or delegation.
Intended outcomes should be identified at the beginning of the workforce planning stage. Ensuring your staff are engaged and communicated with throughout the process will contribute greatly to the acheivement of positive outcomes. Access our staff engagement toolkit to help you to do this.
Options for developing your support workforce
Some NHS organisations have been the following two models to develop their support workforce:
The assistant practitioner role has gained prominence recently as a flexible way to deliver care within a variety of settings. Assistant practitioners have knowledge and skills beyond that of a traditional care assistant and deliver work that may previously have been within the remit of the registered professional. They can assist with recruitment and retention of the healthcare workforce when designed with clear career pathways and development opportunities. Find out more, and read about trusts who have used this model on our assistant practitioners page.
Apprenticeships are already used widely within the health sector; over 80 apprenticeships and frameworks cover more than100 different job roles. They can be used to develop solutions to skill shortages or recruitment difficulties by designing roles around areas of key need. Potential apprentices can be developed internally with current staff or externally, with school leavers as an example. Find out more, and read case studies on our Apprenticeships page.