The National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare has developed an integrated workforce planning process designed to put NHS Wales at the forefront of workforce planning.

The agency's workforce development team has designed a workforce configuration tool to help managers model different workforce scenarios. The tool is one of a number of techniques to be used in reviewing future workforce requirements.

According to a recent Welsh Assembly health, well-being and local government report on workforce planning: "Getting the right staff with the right skills, in the right numbers is the essential foundation to improve services to the public. Getting it wrong means that improvements are more difficult to achieve and at worst, can lead to failing or poor services."

Planning weaknesses

The 2004 Wanless review identified a number of weaknesses in the workforce planning process, including:

  • inconsistencies in the data collected from workforce plans and concerns about accuracy and validity;

  • workforce planning being undertaken in isolation from strategic and operational planning and target setting;

  • workforce planning and service planning operating under different timescales.

The service was also critical of the workforce planning process, claiming it was too time consuming and bureaucratic. In addition, because workforce planning was carried out as a one-off annual event it did not support employers in managing longer-term workforce change and development. NHS organisations viewed the process as not being flexible enough to take into account development of new roles and new ways of working.

Redesigned process

To counteract these concerns, a new integrated workforce planning process for NHS Wales was developed in 2007 and the implementation phase in now under way. The new process requires NHS Wales organisations to integrate service, financial and workforce planning and to work with neighbouring health organisations.

To help organisations implement the new planning process, an electronic workforce configuration tool has been developed. It is designed to support other workforce planning processes and should not be used in isolation.

The tool is based on the "Christmas tree" model (originally developed by Homerton University hospital foundation trust) which shows NHS staffing levels by Agenda for Change band with an additional band for consultants and other medical staff.

Compiling data

The tool is made up of two parts. The first part requires information on all staff in a particular department, directorate or whole trust. Staff data is downloaded from the electronic staff record using occupational codes. This automatically feeds into the Christmas tree representation to provide a profile of current staffing and staffing costs at the mid-point of Agenda for Change bands. The tool enables the user to change the pay bands if their workforce pay levels are different from the mid-point.

A percentage workload activity increase is also fed in as a proxy for service activity changes. This facility could, for example, show the effects of a move from acute to community settings and the impact this change would have on staffing costs. The configuration tool builds in a salary inflation cost of 2 per cent.

Efficient management

Staff using the software to produce workforce plans will note that even when they use 0 per cent activity growth, future staff budgets increase because of increases in pay. The configuration tool enables the user to manipulate numbers of staff in each pay band, and shows the implications of the changes. These functions should prompt users to consider skill mix changes where required to improve the efficient management of resources.

Data generated from using the workforce configuration tool can be fed into the education commissioning requirements and in-house training, thereby strengthening these key workforce planning activities.

Carrying out integrated workforce planning at all levels of an organisation will be essential in influencing the shape of the future workforce and the delivery of healthcare. This software will give organisations greater confidence in their workforce plans.

The workforce configuration tool can be found at