• Long-term plan aims to shift the balance from specialist medics to generalists 
  • Comprehensive workforce plan to be published later this year
  • CPD funding expected to increase over next five years

More doctors will be encouraged to train as generalists rather than specialising in a specific area of medicine, according to the long-term plan for the NHS.

The proposal is designed to shift away from the dominance of what the plan describes as “highly specialised” medicine to ensure medics are better able to provide care to patients who have more than one long-term condition.

It is part of a wider emphasis on the future workforce of the NHS, with plans to expand the numbers of registered nurses and doctors and improve working conditions to improve retention rates.

The plan is aiming to reduce the double-digit national nursing vacancy rate to 5 per cent by 2028. 

While the long-term plan sets out a range of workforce ambitions, the detail will be set out in a national workforce strategy, which is due to be published later this year but has been repeatedly delayed.

The workforce plan will be overseen by a cross-sector national workforce group and “underpinned” by a new compact between NHS leaders and leadership bodies.

It is understood the new national group will be chaired by NHS Improvement chair Baroness Dido Harding.

The long-term plan also committed to reversing cuts in continuing professional development budgets for staff training but did not say by what level it would increase. Health Education England’s budget will be decided in the government’s spending review.

The plan confirmed an intended increase in nurse undergraduate places by 25 per cent, alongside new routes into nursing with the nursing associate role and apprenticeships. It also confirmed an increase in clinical placements for nursing to increase by 25 per cent from 2019-20 and 50 per cent from 2020-21.

Flexible rostering across all trusts will become mandatory while an extra £1m will be invested in the Workforce Race Equality Standard to improve the experience of black and minority ethnic staff.

Other workforce reforms in the long-term plan include:

  • Growing medical school places to 7,500, with the potential to grow them further depending on HEE’s budget.
  • Modernisation of the stroke workforce to allow staff from different professions to work across specialties with new accreditation and credentialing for hospital consultants.
  • Investing £2.3m into the Helpforce volunteer programme to double the number of NHS volunteers over the next three years.
  • The recruitment of 1,500 new clinical and diagnostic cancer staff across seven specialisms between 2018-21. Since 2017, there has been a net increase already of 833 full-time equivalent staff.
  • Substantially expanding the number of clinical pharmacists in new primary care networks.
  • Making greater use of community pharmacists’ skills, such as patient reviews, and delivering greater savings from payments to pharmacists and supply of medication.