We can change the future direction of the non-clinical workforce - but we need your input, writes Douglas Ritchie

The interim report of the HSJ/Serco Inquiry Into Maximising The Value Of the Non-Clinical Workforce sets out to do three things to help us realise and maximise the value and values of this vital half-million-strong workforce.

The first is to highlight their contributions – not only to effective and smooth running of health and care services, but also to making working environments calm and pleasant places to work and to receive care.

Everyone we spoke to in the first stage of the Inquiry felt that there is not a sufficient recognition of the value of the NHS’ non-clinical workforce. The reasons for this are various (and the negative term of ‘non-clinical’ probably doesn’t help: let us know if you can think of a better one).

Questions and reflections

The impact of the non-clinical workforce on the experience of people who use the NHS, and their friends and families (which is all of us) can be overlooked. Rightly, we tend to hold clinical staff in high esteem. We wouldn’t do much healthcare without them. But all good clinicians know that they work supported by a team whom many patients might rarely see directly.

The second is to work with HSJ’s readers on testing the ideas the interim report has sought and developed. We welcome your responses, examples of good practice and challenges if you think there are aspects we have missed or under-represented. Email the inquiry team on HSJinquiry@emap.com

Your input can materially shape our final report, which will be published in November at the annual HSJ Summit.

The third is to try to provide some tools for self-analysis by organisations. We developed a set of questions for reflection at the end of this interim report, which we hope you can use to inform your planning and approaches.

Broadly speaking, the questions look at where these non-clinical staff fit in and impact on how we redesign healthcare systems and processes.

We need to think about the future of this workforce. How do we encourage the best talent to come into the health and care system to do these jobs?

As we do this challenging work, we need to keep in mind that these are the people who ensure the environment is right for clinical staff to deliver the optimal care (in elective acute care, as the right surgical gloves and kit there; is the premises and equipment clean; is the scheduling and logistics able to ensure that the staff and patients will be ready on time?

How can we redesign services, delivering them in better, smarter or new ways that will really drive efficiency out of tis group of staff? When did we last ask them for their ideas for service improvements?

How will using these staff better and differently enable us to deliver innovation and integration safely and effectively (clinical safety being non-negotiable)?

Finally, we need to think about the future of this workforce. How do we encourage the best talent to come into the health and care system to do these jobs?

We hope you will find the work of the Inquiry useful, interesting and valuable. We look forward to your feedback, ideas and examples of good practice.

Douglas Ritchie is business development director, Serco Health