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ICSs should become ‘default level’ for workforce planning, NHS Confederation says


By Valeria Fiore
Reporter
22 March 2019

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Integrated care systems (ICSs) should be devolved more powers for local workforce planning, NHS Confederation said in a report published yesterday.

The body welcomed the intention – previously expressed in an NHS Improvement letter to chief executives on 6 March – to transfer more workforce-related responsibilities to local systems.

It said NHS Improvement’s proposal had been largely welcomed by NHS Confederation members, who shared their views during a roundtable in January.

However, local leaders suggested that any additional responsibility should be adequately funded, NHS Confederation said.

The organisation will continue to consider local leaders’ views and has launched a consultation on the ICS workforce development, for which it is collecting views until 30 April.

Devolving powers to ICSs

According to NHS Confederation, leaders who took part in the first of two planned roundtables on the ICS workforce suggested a number of powers should be devolved to ICSs.

The report said: ‘An ICS should be the default level for strategy and planning. We know how important this is and are ready for the challenge.’

Leaders at the roundtable agreed that workforce-related powers and funding should be passed down to ICSs, and they should also be given responsibility to design their local system architecture, according to the report.

NHS Confederation also suggested that ICSs should be given greater freedom to pilot their own local approaches to supply and retention and independently decide on which measures to adopt to make the most of their workforce.

‘Hand more control to local leaders’

NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said workforce is ‘the number one concern’ in the NHS, as the service faces over 100,000 vacancies.

He added: ‘For too long we have tried to run everything from the centre. That is why it is encouraging to hear national leaders talk about devolving control of workforce to the emerging integrated care systems.

‘For this to work, local leaders in both health and social care will need the freedom to develop local solutions, introduce new roles and ways of working, and embed local accountability mechanisms as their services are transformed.

It will be a significant challenge but we do not have any other option but to make this work.’

NHS workforce implementation plan national executive lead Julian Hartley said the upcoming workforce plan – on which an interim report is expected to be released in April – will specify what support ICSs will receive to ‘secure the skills required locally, and ensure patients receive the right care from the right professional’.

He said: ‘It is vital that local leaders have the freedom to plan their workforce based on the need of their patients.’

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