• Health Education England chief executive Ian Cumming announces boost to CPD training budgets this year
  • He told NHS Confederation delegates the NHS faced a 115,000 gap in workforce plans by 2027 if no action was taken
  • HEE is confident it will hit its GP training target for the first time later this year

The NHS workforce needs to grow by between 3 and 5 per cent a year for the next decade but is on course to fail that target, the head of Health Education England has warned.

In a speech to the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester today, Ian Cumming set out the challenge facing the NHS on workforce. He told delegates that the education and training body was forecasting a gap of 115,000 NHS staff by 2027 if nothing changed.

Professor Cumming said: “We believe that the workforce needs to grow between 3 and 5 per cent per annum. We need to turn on all the taps. Our current growth projections will not deliver between 3 and 5 per cent increase in the workforce every year over the next 10 years with the exception of the overall medical workforce where it will, but not in some areas, such as general practice.”

He repeated calls to boost the retention of staff working in the health service and revealed the effect of rising leaver rates, which he said in nursing alone had cost the NHS an additional 16,000 full time equivalent nurses by 2017 compared to 2012.

Professor Cumming said that if retention rates had remained at 2012 levels, half of all current nursing vacancies would be filled but instead an extra 5,000 more nurses are leaving each year compared to 2012 levels.

He acknowledged the need for local trusts and providers to get help with providing additional investment training and announced a 17 per cent boost to continuing professional development funding this year.

He said: “Part of the problem, I know, is investment in CPD and workforce transformation. We pledged last year that we would do what we could and I am pleased to announce that this year’s CPD budget will be 17 per cent higher than last year.

“It is still not enough. We need to put serious investment into our current workforce to retain them and give them the skills that they need.”

He also told the conference that HEE was anticipating there being 45,000 nursing associates employed in the NHS in a decade’s time with 17,000 of them having trained to become a registered nurse.

HEE is also planning to increase the size of the graduate management trainee scheme from 150 in 2017 to 500 by 2020.

In another example of the workforce challenge for the NHS, Professor Cumming told the conference there had been a 3 per cent rise in the number of GPs registered with the General Medical Council since 2012, but almost a 4 per cent drop in those employed as GPs.

He said: “The vast majority of them are doing short term locum [work] in general practice in this country. Why? That isn’t what we want, that isn’t what patients want. We want that continuity of care and we want people in substantive employment.”

However, he said 40 per cent of staff who had qualified as GPs five years ago were not working substantively in the NHS at a cost to the taxpayer for their training of £500,000.

But Professor Cumming said 3,019 doctors had chosen to train as GPs this year meaning for the first time ever HEE will achieve its target of training 3,250 GPs by the end of the second round of training later this year.

Health Education England is currently developing a 10-year workforce strategy for the NHS, which will be published later this year.

HEE has received more than 3,000 individual and organisational responses including half a million words of feedback.