Problems with workforce planning in the NHS can be overcome, as one initiative has shown. Kevin Elliston explains

The Plymouth teaching primary care trust workforce development team was established a year ago under the direction of the director of workforce development. Its objective was to develop an integrated approach to workforce planning and development that included workforce development leads, public health input and financial guidance and advice.

The team set out to engage trust budget holders at every level and to develop annual workforce action plans within established financial constraints.

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Dispelling myths, empowering managers

In 2007-08, the team, consisting of workforce development, finance and public health leads, ran a series of master classes at the trust. The sessions challenged the view that workforce planning is a human resources function and empowered managers to develop their own workforce development plans to ensure services were sustainable, commissionable, marketable, health promoting and in financial balance.

Of the 230 budget holders at the trust, over 70 per cent completed workforce action plans within the first year of the workforce strategy roll-out.

These plans are used in the local delivery planning process to produce an annual workforce development profile for the trust based on its identified workforce development needs.

Toolkits, templates and bespoke design

To develop the workforce action plans, the trust's workforce development team adapted the six step guide to workforce planning developed by NHS National Workforce Projects. The trust also used a range of analytical tools, which were either adapted for local use or piloted for workforce development purposes, in order to provide accurate and visual data presentations for service managers. The workforce design toolkits and templates included:

  • the six step guide;

  • electronic staff record;

  • workforce planning score card (bespoke tool designed by the trust);

  • skill mix generator;

  • staffing tool;

  • service reconfiguration tool;

  • age profile analysis.