A medical think tank has suggested that the best way for the NHS to meet increasing demand in the health service could be to train up non-medical personnel.
Expanding the skill base of these individuals could go a long way to ensuring that the NHS meets many targets that it currently misses with regularity.
This is the conclusion of research by the Nuffield Foundation for NHS Employers, which suggests that nursing, community and support staff were equipped with additional skills, they would be able to relieve pressures on more highly qualified colleagues.
However, there are logistical issues involved in the suggestion of the Nuffield Foundation.
Perhaps most obviously, this approach though would present NHS trusts with substantial organisational challenges.
There would also be massive financial challenges involved in the existing economic climate for the health service.
Nonetheless, Nuffield’s report “Reshaping the workforce to deliver the care patients need”, indicates that there is a growing gap between patients’ needs and the skills of those who care for them.
And the particular circumstances of patients within the NHS is contributing to this undesirable situation.
A typical NHS patient is now elderly, frail and often has multiple conditions requiring numerous hospital stays rather than, as in the past, someone who needed to be cured of a single illness.
With the average patient requiring a significant amount of attention and resources, it is suggested by the Nuffield Foundation that the non-medical workforce can be trained with a view to improving their collective skills base.
For example, healthcare assistants could be trained to carry out physical health checks that did not require a qualified nurse.
Nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists and paramedics, could also be further trained as paramedic practitioners, treating patients with chronic illness or minor injury.
Author Candace Imison suggested that evolving the way that the workforce operates in the NHS will be absolutely vital in a health service future in which resources will be at a premium.
“Reshaping the NHS workforce can offer huge opportunities…but we stress this is not simply a ‘nice to do’ – it is urgent, and essential if the NHS is to find a sustainable balance between available funding, patient needs and staff needs.”
In accordance with this report, it is expected that the NHS will announce a deficit of £2.3 billion in the next few days.
This would correlate with the overall impression that the NHS is struggling to deliver the standard of care considered satisfactory, and that the entire health service sector faces massive financial challenges in the coming years.
Reskilling and redesignating staff could seemingly play a major role in easing some of the problems that the health service will clearly encounter.