New research from MHP Communications has found that alleviating workforce pressures is the number one priority for NHS Leaders in England.

The consultancy also believe it could be one of the key challenges preventing successful delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan.

The results also revealed that two thirds (66%) of respondents appear positive about the NHS Long Term Plan and its focus on Integrated Care Systems stating it will result in “significant progress” towards achieving the local health priorities in their area.

Only one in ten respondents thought that laws such as the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which encourage a competitive market for health services, were the main barriers to success of the Long Term Plan – instead they identified institutional challenges within the NHS, such as financial pressures and staff shortages.

The survey results come shortly after the publication of the Interim NHS People Plan, which sets out how the NHS can address workforce shortages in priority areas such as nursing, improving training and culture, and preparing the workforce for 21st century care.

A final NHS People Plan will be published following the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review, during which the budget for training and recruiting staff will be agreed with HM Treasury.

Pete Digger, managing director in the MHP Health practice said that the “workforce is becoming the most pressing issue in healthcare.”

He went on to explain; “The Interim People Plan has set out how the system might respond, with an emphasis on improving both the retention and culture within the health service in England. However achieving this this will require financial ballast with the Department of Health and Social Care securing a good outcome from the next Comprehensive Spending Review.

“Alongside this, our polling challenges the growing consensus within the healthcare policy community that the current legislative landscape is holding back the most ambitious and far reaching pledges in the NHS Long Term Plan.

“These results hint that those working on the ground don’t necessarily feel the same way, and believe other areas – such as lack of workforce investment – are where the Plan will ultimately fall down.”

The survey, carried out by ComRes, interviewed 220 NHS Leaders in England online between 22 January and 18 February 2019.