High demand for services, a population living longer, and increasing numbers of people with more than one health condition, is the background to a new workforce strategy, 'Delivering for our people', published by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland.
"Colleagues need the opportunity to develop skills and expertise, whilst maintaining the provision of personalised, compassionate care. We need more investment in people, and effective workforce engagement and planning. We need to support our people," the strategy notes.
Leandre Archer, the Society's national officer for Northern Ireland, was part of the steering group which created the document: "The strategy will hopefully be the foundation for the development of much needed new advanced roles within radiography," she says.
"Most interestingly, the strategy acknowledges 'significant challenges for AHP recruitment' and the need to develop an advanced practice framework. It is an opportunity for significant investment in the development and wellbeing of the workforce," Leandre continues.
Feedback from staff about what they see as being the key concerns and issues include:
- Lack of training places and planning for retirement
- Increasing workloads - in particular administrative tasks being transferred to frontline workers
- The creation of job plans and roles which meet the needs of an ageing workforce
- Different skills mixes and roles, taking into account changes in the complexity of conditions and patient outcomes
- Flexible working patterns to met the needs of the service and individual staff
- Clearly defined career pathways
- The increasing attractiveness of agency work which de-stabilises teams and has an impact on the permanent workforce
- Frustration with the differences in pay across the UK
- More upskilling and the opportunity to use new skills
- More volunteering and work experience placements for young people
Key actions outlined in the strategy include:
- Developing an optimum workforce model
- Planning for the workforce implications arising from the UK’s exit from the EU
- Exploring non-salary incentive programmes to recruit and retain people
- A regional health and social care careers service targeted at the existing workforce, young people from the age of 14, and possible returners to service
- Developing new ways of working
- A new staff health and wellbeing policy and greater investment in occupational health services
- A worklife balance policy
- Simplified employment arrangements, including examining whether a single employer for all HSC staff is feasible and will produce benefits for staff/patients/ clients
Heath and Social Care Workforce Strategy 2026 can be downloaded from the Department of Health website.