Skills for Health has released the findings of research carried out in June on the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce across the NHS, health and care sector.
The report, ‘COVID-19 Insights: Impact on workforce skills’ finds that the pandemic has had wider than expected consequences on the workforce, which will continue to significantly influence service delivery for some time to come.
The research survey received a substantial 2950 responses from those working across the NHS, and wider health and care services. The findings, analysed by Skills for Health Senior Researcher Sabina Enback, clearly show that following three months of extreme change across the healthcare sector, organisations suffered severe skills loss. The report highlights the critical issues which contributed to this, with the aim of supporting the sector to rebuild and reset for a sustainable future, both now and in the long-term.
Jon Parry, Head of Research and Evaluation, Skills for Health says: “This report is the first step in our efforts to provide intelligence and support which will help guide a path to recovery in terms of service delivery, and most importantly, ensure that employee wellbeing is at the forefront of future ways of working.”
There are several reasons why nearly a quarter of organisations confirm skills will be lost due to COVID-19, including staff taking early retirement, or resigning due to burnout, staff illness and in some cases, sadly death. In other instances, staff self-isolating or staying at home to care for family members has removed valuable skills for an extended period of time, if not permanently.
70% of respondents agree that the pandemic has increased training needs and nearly half expect to increase recruitment activities over the next six months. Infection prevention and control is one of the areas in which training needs have increased. It is also a key skill for the future, with 97.6% of respondents listing it as one of the key future skills needed for staff. Furthermore, 67% want help with guidance on sector specific infection control requirements to aid with recovery from the pandemic.
Over 95% thought that dealing with out of the ordinary situations and the appropriate use of equipment, facilities, and materials would be crucial for staff going forward.
Areas in which organisations want support include with staff wellbeing (60.9%), employee engagement (47.9) and workforce planning (37.9%).
Andrew Lovegrove, Senior Workforce Development Consultant for Skills for Health, is an expert in workforce planning and skills development. He comments on some of the crucial challenged highlighted in the research and how organisations can begin to develop the practical solutions needed moving forward.
‘’Sustainable change is not just about fixing things in the short-term; flexible working (such as home-working) brings its own set of challenges. We need to assess the negatives as well as the positives of these issues; work out ‘what’s worked and what hasn’t?’ Only when we know this can we make more impactful long-term changes.’
“We’ve long advocated that workforce planning and development is a vital activity of any health organisation. COVID-19 has highlighted that we’ll ‘fail’ without adequate people planning.”