Alejandro Coca, Head of Business at TrueProfile.io, outlines the role that blockchain-enabled technologies can play in addressing the rise in skill shortages across the NHS
The NHS has long suffered from skills shortages and sourcing talent quickly, with recent reports forecasting that staff shortfalls in the NHS were expected to grow from over 100,000 in 2018 to almost 250,000 by 2030.. This was an issue long before COVID-19 and will continue to be afterwards, but the pressure the pandemic has caused on healthcare systems around the world is unprecedented and it’s never been more important for the NHS to have quick and easy access to healthcare staff with relevant skills.
The current NHS recruitment process can take anywhere up to six months – a timeframe that hospitals simply don’t have right now, and as such, NHS recruiters should be looking to making efficiencies to those processes, while also turning to the latest technologies to help them fill essential roles as quickly as possible.
The impact of staff shortages
As COVID-19 continues to stress-test healthcare systems, workforce shortages are likely to become particularly severe, meaning the NHS and many other formerly-functioning healthcare systems are very quickly becoming overwhelmed and understaffed.
Not only do these staff shortages impact upon the quality of treatment and care on offer, they lengthen waiting times and only serve to increase the already-high levels of uncertainty in everyone’s lives. The reality is that the NHS’s increasingly visible lack of doctors, nurses and other key frontline staff is only set to worsen over the next decade, putting both access to treatments and quality of care at even more severe risks, unless urgent steps can be taken to close the skills gap.
However, there is one glaring disconnect here. The NHS can and should be doing everything within its power to speedily recruit the best healthcare professionals from around the globe to address staff and skills shortages, yet the system is too often hampered by outdated and overly-bureaucratic processes in which, for example, professional documents and qualification checks take far longer and cost far more than is necessary.
Clearly, verifying that candidates are who they say they are and that they do possess the skills, experience and credentials which they claim to do is a fundamentally important part of healthcare recruitment.
Turning to more efficient recruitment processes
In our post-Brexit world – and looking longer-term, beyond today’s urgent and immediate needs that are already stretching the system to its limits – the NHS has to streamline, speed up and modernise its recruitment process. One way in which this can be addressed is through recruiting more international healthcare professionals.
Yet with Brexit already well underway, NHS recruiters, HR managers and healthcare regulators face a puzzling dilemma: how to employ the best medical and care talent from around the world, while maintaining consistent, thorough authenticity checks on candidates’ professional and academic credentials?
Traditionally, verifying private documents such as passports or professional credentials such as degree certificates has been a lengthy, complex and costly process, particularly if when it comes to overseas applicants and recruiters do not have the required local knowledge and contacts. When adding language barriers to the mix, it is easy to see why many British hospitals and healthcare facilities struggle in their hunt for high quality overseas medical talent.
Technology powers innovation
Fortunately, there are a range of innovative technologies available that can offer recruiters and regulators with the tools they need to streamline the recruitment process. For example, using blockchain-enabled professional document verification platforms, candidates will have the ability to securely upload and verify private documents, such as passports or university certificates.
This means that NHS recruiters and regulators across the UK are now able to efficiently and safely vet healthcare professionals from across the world faster and more securely than ever before. Previously, where it might have taken an organisation anything up to six months to verify an overseas candidate’s credentials, the latest blockchain-enabled online platforms remove those obstacles in one fell swoop. This offers a way to significantly reduce the time-to-hire of medical professionals by up to 20-30 days through giving NHS recruiters access to a bank of pre-screened and authenticated medical professionals who are ready to move to new roles.
And that’s exactly why these technologies are revolutionising healthcare recruitment right now. These state-of-the-art tools will allow NHS recruiters and healthcare regulators to efficiently and safely connect with verified healthcare professionals worldwide, screening and authenticating professional documents in a fraction of the time such tasks previously took them.
While COVID-19 continues to add unprecedented strain to the world’s best healthcare systems, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of medical workers will continue to remain exempt from restrictions on freedoms of movements across national borders when seeking new employment opportunities. This means that there is still a golden opportunity for understaffed and underfunded NHS hospitals and healthcare organisations to take steps to rectify skills gaps and staff shortages.
Crucially, they can only do this by broadening their tech playbook and seeking out the latest cost-efficient solutions. In turn, healthcare regulators and NHS recruiters will have the much needed and absolutely necessary capability to act quickly when it comes to securing the best medical talent to meet their immediate needs, from anywhere in the world.