'Emphasis on generalist skills' will place NHS on a secure footing for the long-term says CEO of the NHS Confederation

1 July 2023, 08:44 | Updated: 1 July 2023, 09:38

CEO of the NHS Confederation explains need for more generalist skills

By Anna Fox

As the Prime Minister announced a plan to increase the number of people working for the NHS in England, Matthew Taylor believes it will inevitably increase the primary workforce.

CEO of the NHS Confederation, Matthew Taylor told Tom Swarbrick an element of the new NHS England workforce plan is to place "greater emphasis on general skills" as over the years, he added: "We have tended to emphasise on specialising as your medical training progresses".

More doctors and nurses will be trained and thousands of new roles will be created to work in tandem with them, as part of a major NHS England workforce plan.

Places at university for medical students will be doubled, a new apprenticeship scheme for doctors is planned and medical degrees could be shortened from 7 years.

READ MORE: 'We desperately need it': Shadow Health Secretary reacts to the government's NHS expansion plan

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the delayed workforce plan was "historic" and had taken time to get right.

The CEO of the NHS Confederation said to Tom: "We need more people who have general skills, so if you have those specialist skills you shouldn't lose your capacity to provide general medical support".

Comparing the new ideal to the training which GPs undertake, Mr Taylor said: "I think what we're looking for is for people to keep that generalist capacity throughout their career, which of course is what GPs have".

He added: "Another important component to this strategy is that commitment to expanding our primary care workforce and having more GPs".

Former NHS worker: 'There aren't enough clinical placements for students in the UK.'

Pondering the "greatest pressure" facing the NHS, Mr Taylor told Tom pressure is prevalent across the health service, however, is greatest in "primary care".

Noting Tom's point on what the public requires from a health service, the CEO stated, "That's where the retention bits of the strategy is really important, adding: "We enable more flexible working for people, we've already seen some more reforms around pensions which enable people to work later or semi-retire".

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak to recruit 300,000 new doctors and nurses in biggest shake-up in NHS history

When questioning Mr Taylor about nurses courses Tom said: "Applications to English nurses courses were 145,000 in 2020, 29,000 of whom were accepted.

"That's not a very good rate, if a lot of people are applying but not a lot are getting on, why might that be? Is that because there just aren't the courses?"

Replying to Tom, Mr Taylor said: "The fundamental reason is we don't have the courses, and also to a certain extent we don't have the capacity to give those people the practical training that they need that is part of that learning, so this is why the investment is important."

Providing an example, the CEO of the NHS Confederation said: "I was in hospital recently when the junior doctors were on strike and I was speaking to a surgeon who was saying 'I am able to operate twice as quickly now because I don't have to show anybody else what to do'."

Critics of the Prime Minister's plans say poor working conditions in the NHS could undermine the plan.

Pressure is mounting on the NHS workforce as there are over 110,000 vacancies in the NHS workforce currently, with one out of every 10 posts empty.

The NHS has been plagued by strikes this year, and the dispute with doctors is still continuing.

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