NHS' Long Term Plan
© Mohamed Ahmed Soliman |

David Green, Director & Co-Founder, Remedium Partners, highlights why the success of the NHS’ Long Term Plan will rely on smart strategic workforce planning

The proposals outlined in the NHS’ Long Term Plan around employing overseas talent are certainly a step in the right direction and offer further strategic support for NHS Trusts in terms of recruiting internationally. With promises of closer working with regulatory bodies, the ambitious goal of hiring thousands of overseas doctors can certainly be achieved.

While it will undoubtedly be no easy task and, as the name suggests, it will take a long time and require plenty of central support, it is great that the NHS is addressing the key challenges that we’ve long felt are limiting the attraction of overseas doctors. The workforce implementation plan has said that it will set out new national arrangements to support NHS organisations in recruiting from overseas.

This to me is a crucial point given that Trusts have historically relied on agency locums to plug staff shortages. While these professionals have lent a tremendous helping hand and alleviated pressure, the NHS budget can be better utilised by working with permanent and substantive doctors. Patients will also experience a more consistent service, as they stay under the care of the same doctor. In fact, by placing over 800 permanent doctors from overseas in the NHS, we’ve managed to save over £100M for the health sector already. To replicate this success, it is imperative that attention is focused on sourcing and retaining overseas talent. But how?

Attracting overseas doctors – a new approach

Working for the NHS is a long-term dream for many doctors around the world. However, with uncertainty around Brexit, challenges with visas and increasing competition for talent, Trusts need to continue to ensure they are developing strong employer brands. Attraction strategies must be tailored toward overseas doctors and be in line with their current demands. From our extensive experience in working with international doctors, we have seen that professionals are now increasingly seeking specialist training opportunities which enable them to develop their existing skills and prospects for career development. Hospitals that can offer this to doctors and provide other benefits, such as the chance to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration, will certainly stand out as an employer of choice.

A focus on retaining

This level of engagement, however, is also needed beyond the hiring stage. A continued effort to understand and meet doctors’ demands once they are in employment will result in a long and happy relationship. As mentioned above, emphasis should be put on developing skills and career progression throughout their employment.

The fact that the NHS acknowledges in the plan that the top reason for professionals leaving is due to not receiving the development and career progression that they need suggests that many Trusts are moving towards a greater focus on retention strategies. Indeed, the plan outlines that the proportion of the budget which is spent on workforce development will be increased, which will inevitably impact the ability to attract overseas talent.

Trusts can also help to retain overseas doctors by ensuring that they are welcomed into a community atmosphere. Positive culture with opportunities to socialise and take part in activities, for example, will create a greater sense of belonging, which is conducive to wellbeing and professional fulfilment.

To ease doctors in and allow them to focus on the job at hand while getting to grips with the logistics of working for the NHS, Trusts should also seek to make their transition to the UK as smooth as possible. Without a doubt, changing workplaces can be a difficult time, and moving abroad can certainly complicate things further. With so much to consider during the process such as housing, banking and schooling children, a helping hand can go a long way.

To further increase retention, one method to consider is having new overseas doctors working closely with a mentor. Having access to ongoing advice from a cohort of consultants will allow doctors to feel continually supported.

The future

There’s no doubt that things are moving in the right direction for the NHS. Its latest plan has outlined key areas for improvement in terms of attracting and retaining overseas talent and we welcome the proposals outlined. However, we know from experience that this will be challenging to say the least, so it’s vital that Trusts manage expectations at all levels.


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