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UK healthcare at a crossroads as educators call for urgent training reforms

The UK government plans to reconfigure the National Health Service (NHS) by implementing changes in not only the manner of training healthcare workers but also in the volume of recruitment.

Due to a lack of highly-trained healthcare professionals, the Government has proposed a five-point plan to turn ambitions into reality.

At the end of last month, there were 112,000 vacancies across the healthcare sector. This has instigated an NHS-led initiative to increase training, double medical school places, and arrive at an 80% increase in nursing and midwifery training positions.

To develop a well-staffed and efficient NHS, the UK Government must work closely with universities to fund the plan over the next 15 years, spanning general elections and spending reviews

Professor Alistair Fitt, Health Policy Lead, Universities UK

Universities UK (UUK) set out a five-point plan to achieve the aims of the NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan (LTWP) :

1. Increasing the number of educators

Insufficient numbers of clinical staff is a limiting factor for growth. As of today, 50% of healthcare teachers are above the age of 50 years old. To appeal to an array of staff to fill these roles, an immediate assessment is needed of current educator roles and careers.

2. Expanding student intake

The drop off in applications to midwifery, nursing and allied health professionals (AHP) courses has provoked the UUK to demand the government introduce a significant national recruitment campaign formed in partnership with universities, schools and the NHS.

3. Allocating more resources to develop new facilities and infrastructure

Boosting the number of medical students warrants branching out teaching facilities and opening new places of learning. There will be a great need for further learning spaces as well as greater learning technologies such as simulation and robotics which both need state financial injection.

4. Enhancing the learning experience and decreasing dropout rates

A gross number of health courses involve high dropout rates that are consistent into early careers. Therefore there must be additional well-being and mental health support such as more regular check-ins and counselling to prevent emotional and stress-related breakdowns leading to dropout.

5. Increasing placement opportunities

Sustaining a focus on placement availability, quality and distribution is crucial for the government, the NHS, and educational institutions. To achieve this, there must be more direct collaboration between the NHS and respective universities to expand placement opportunities in community environments such as care homes and schools while also providing more hospital placements.

Speaking about the LTWP, Professor Alistair Fitt, Universities UK’s health policy lead, and Vice-Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, said:

“With political consensus on the need to significantly increase the number of healthcare professionals over the coming years, now is a pivotal moment to protect the future of the NHS in England.

To develop a well-staffed and efficient NHS, the UK Government must work closely with universities to fund the plan over the next 15 years, spanning general elections and spending reviews. We must take bold decisions to ensure the conditions are right for universities to train staff adequately, including on funding and capital investment, staffing and student recruitment.

For the government’s ambitions for our national health service to come to fruition requires a step change in healthcare education.”


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