GRI CEO, Andrew Preston, addresses the need for a clear strategy to tackle workforce challenges in the NHS, to ensure the agility and flexibility to maintain and improve performance and manage the long-term impact of coronavirus.

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The coronavirus pandemic is a major shock to the NHS and social care systems and has resulted in significant changes to service delivery at an incredible pace.

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New Nightingale hospitals were staffed within a matter of days; some services have been run virtually; there has been a rapid upskilling of staff at scale; healthcare workers have been redeployed to help where demand is greatest; private healthcare contracts have transitioned to the NHS.

Covid-19 is putting unprecedented pressure on people working in health and social care. But even before the pandemic, staffing was the biggest single challenge for the NHS in England and was having a direct impact on patient care and staff experience, according to The Health Foundation.

This year, the NHS is projected to face a workforce shortfall of over 115,000 staff in England, not accounting for any covid-19 impacts. Based on current trends, and without major shifts in workforce policy and planning, this supply gap will double over the next five years.

Now as we start to think about the future, it is more important than ever that these workforce challenges are met with a clear strategy to ensure the NHS has the agility and flexibility to maintain and improve performance and manage the long-term impact of coronavirus.

A flexible solution

Contingent labour has always been part of the UK workforce. But over the last decade, and in the wake of covid-19, there has been a shift toward a more flexible workforce model, with more organisations utilising a mix of agency/bank staff, freelancers and independent contractors.

A recent study by Gartner revealed that an expansion of the use of contingent workers will be seen throughout the rest of 2020 and beyond. “32 per cent of organisations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure. Utilising more gig workers provides employers with greater workforce management flexibility.”

While any deviation from the status quo comes with risks – the benefits of a flexible workforce are tangible and easily measured:

Cost control

Engaging a flexible workforce allows you to add staff without increasing permanent headcount and costs. You can use temporary staff to manage spikes in demand, with no long-term commitment.

Access to talent

Contingent workers can bring new and valuable skills to your organisation and could go on to become pivotal members the team.

Speed and scale

A flexible workforce gives you the ability to scale staffing up and down by project or season or in response to external factors impacting organisational priorities.

The future of work

As the fastest-growing segment of the UK labour market, the contingent workforce cannot be ignored. Organisations that adopt this staffing strategy will be able to attract top talent, promote innovation, develop cohesive teams, and build a sustainable model for the future.

How GRI can help

As sector experts, GRI recognise the unique challenges facing the NHS in the sourcing and management of a contingent workforce. It is why we created a specific offering that provides both a solution to tight budgets/rate caps, as well as an alternative to working directly with recruitment agencies and a way to gain visibility of agency, bank and contractor usage.

Our neutral vendor model is particularly adept at flexing to meet sudden requirements with a proven track record in managing this precise scenario. Our extensive agency network and ability to move fast is a key reason why our clients choose to partner with GRI.

To find out how GRI can help you engage a flexible workforce to deliver services more efficiently and at scale, please contact us at