NHS England has launched a new drive to put staff wellbeing at the heart of NHS recovery, with measures designed to address new pandemic challenges and improve physical and mental health support for staff.

The People Plan reportedly builds on innovations driven by staff during the pandemic and sets out how the NHS can embed them.

This includes advertising all job roles across NHS England and NHS Improvement as being available for flexible working patterns from January next year, risk assessments for vulnerable staff, including black and ethnic minority colleagues, and taking subsequent action where needed, and encouraging former staff to return to practice as part of a recruitment drive during 2020/21.

Boosting the mental health and cancer workforce including by offering training grants for 350 nurses to become cancer or chemotherapy specialists, working with universities to increase over 5,000 undergraduate places from September 2020 in nursing, midwifery, allied health professions and dental therapy and hygienist course, and a new £10 million fund for clinical placements for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals to support employers in educating and training the next generation of professionals are also on the Plan.

Furthermore, every NHS trust, foundation trust and CCG must publish progress to ensure that at every level the workforce is representative of the overall black and ethnic minority workforce, while the NHS will also launch a new quarterly staff survey to better track morale.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has welcomed the launch of the NHS People Plan and also announced a new bureaucracy busting drive that aims to enable staff to spend less time on paperwork and more time with their patients.

The People Plan and a new bureaucracy busting call for evidence will work together to find and promote positive changes made before and during the pandemic, such as potentially allowing staff to use secure messaging services like WhatsApp so patients can benefit from rapid access to information and making it easier to link millions of primary care records to the latest data on coronavirus.

“By making the NHS the best place to work we’ll recruit and retain more talent and deliver 50,000 more nurses, 6,000 more doctors in general practice and 26,000 staff primary care professionals,” he said.

“Our NHS People deserve to get on with caring for patients and this crisis has proved there’s bureaucracy that our healthcare system can do better without. So I’m urging people across the NHS and social care to speak up about what red tape you can do without to allow you to better deliver the high quality care you are renowned for.”

“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,” commented Prerana Issar, NHS chief people officer.

“The pandemic has created huge challenges, but it has also highlighted the courage and innovation we are capable of in the most difficult of times. We have recognised the need for consistently high quality health and wellbeing support for our staff, so they can better care for themselves and their patients. These changes must remain part of the blueprint of our NHS as we move forward together.”

The NHS Confederation welcomed the Plan but also noted that it is 'no quick solution to years of disinvestment'.

"The need to systematically eliminate discrimination in our workplaces is an important challenge to every part of the NHS, national, system and local. Too much talent is denied to our teams and our patients, and the Workforce Race Equality Standard starkly describes the work we all need to do,” said Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, which is part of the organisation.

“There are of course no quick solutions to the years of disinvestment in the NHS workforce and the misguided historical belief that we would need fewer people not more to care for our communities.  Our sector needs support from elsewhere in government: further investment in educational places is in the gift of the Treasury, apprenticeship flexibility with the Secretary of State for Education and a wiser long-term migration policy (particularly for colleagues in social care) is still achievable for the Home Secretary.”