Without a motivated and sufficiently resourced NHS workforce, the care patients receive suffers.

We currently see that in the long waiting lists, lack of communication, and growing patient dissatisfaction with the NHS. The Patients Association advocates for patient partnership but we know that gaps in the workforce or large caseloads are barriers to partnership.

Psychological safety

It is hard for staff who are working back-to-back shifts, or covering unfilled positions, to work in partnership with patients. As a result, when services don’t have enough staff, patients cannot be equal partners in their treatment. This leads to patient safety and quality of care being compromised.

We want the NHS to have a trained, competent, and supported workforce with enough members to deliver high quality patient-centred care. A supported workforce is one that feels psychologically safe at work. But psychological safety at work needs to be actively created and nurtured and supported by leadership and organizational culture.

The NHS Workforce Plan, published last summer, attempts to address staff recruitment and retention. Working for the NHS needs to be made desirable again. It is crucial the next Government considers the Workforce Plan and provides the workforce patients need.

To truly deliver the staffing levels patients depend on and ensure they receive safe care, political parties must:

1.     Fund and implement the NHS Workforce Plan

The plan is designed to provide patients with confidence that the services they rely on will be sufficiently staffed, thereby guaranteeing high-quality care. By committing to this funding, political parties can reassure patients that their health needs will be met promptly and safely.

2.     Reporting on addressing new needs and gaps

We know that the world of healthcare is continually evolving, as are patients’ needs. To keep pace with ongoing changes in the sector - such as technology, targets, and ways of working - it is essential to report to Parliament every two years on how newly identified needs or gaps will be addressed.

This aligns with the NHS Workforce Plan’s commitment to revising expectations and plans regularly but requires a political commitment to meet these evolving needs.

By making regular reporting to parliament commonplace, the Government can ensure transparency and accountability in its efforts to maintain staffing levels that patients require.

3.     Introduce legislation on safe staffing levels across the NHS

A crucial step in protecting patients from unsafe care and preventing avoidable harm is legislation mandating safe staffing levels across the NHS.

Clear guidelines and standards for staffing would ensure all NHS services operate in a way that provides safe and effective care. This would safeguard patients while also supporting healthcare professionals by reducing the strain of understaffed and stressful environments.

While the NHS Workforce Plan is a vital step forward, the journey to a fully staffed and safe healthcare system requires ongoing commitment and action from political leaders. By funding the plan, reporting on new needs, and legislating safe staffing levels, we can create a healthcare system where patients are truly equal partners in their care, receiving the safe and high-quality services they deserve.

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