Planning the healthcare workforce has traditionally centred on ensuring that the correct numbers of each type of specialty professional are trained and employed in order to deliver a defined area of service. 

However, the reality of service delivery has seen the continued blurring of professional boundaries, as staff work together in multidisciplinary teams to improve the efficiency and quality of care for the individual patient. 

As a result, traditional supply-based workforce planning has faced criticism for operating in “professional silos” and thus failing to align with service need.

At the Workforce Review Team, in line with much of the rest of the NHS and beyond, we are currently tackling the issues of planning the health and social care workforce by pathway. This work represents a significant step forward in aligning workforce planning with the realities of service delivery and the patient experience. Pathway-based planning forms part of the Darzi vision of an NHS delivering integrated services and personalised care.

Historically, WRT has produced profession-based supply modelling and subsequent analysis, primarily to inform SHA commissioning plans, supplemented by our continually developing demand modelling programme, informed by assumptions derived from data around demography, epidemiology and policy. 

This year, alongside the maintenance of our supply and demand models, WRT is undertaking a reorientation of its core focus to gather and analyse intelligence more closely to reflect the delivery of care by multi-professional teams along integrated clinical and patient pathways.  

In line with other efforts to adopt a pathway-based approach to service planning and commissioning, WRT is working across the eight areas of care identified by Lord Darzi: staying healthy, maternity and newborn care, children’s health, acute care, planned care, mental health, long-term conditions, and end-of-life care.  

These areas are supplemented by additional patient pathways areas, including dementia, learning disabilities, diabetes, COPD, cancer and stroke as well as service based studies on the shift to primary care and diagnostics.  

In order to ensure that a specialty or profession based perspective is not lost in areas where it is most needed we will also be carrying out more detailed workforce supply analysis for the nationally-planned specialties and professions.

We believe that this programme will allow WRT to focus on the needs of patients and the public and to support the move towards a position where national workforce planning is synonymous with national workforce strategy.

Of key importance to the successful implementation of pathway-based planning will be the sharing and transfer of current and emerging knowledge in order to collate and develop best practice. WRT is keen to hear from any organisation that wishes to discuss and swap any issues, solutions, approaches or methodologies arising from their own experiences in planning by pathway. 

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