Why poor talent pipelines will create a future skills crisis in healthcare

While a recent announcement that doctors and nurses will now be exempt from Tier 2 visa caps, enabling the NHS to recruit skilled professionals from overseas, many within the industry are concerned that a poor talent pipeline could lead to major skills gaps in the long term.

Specialist healthcare recruitment consultancy, Healthier Recruitment has warned that the breadth of career options within healthcare must be promoted to school and university leavers if we want to build a strong pipeline of UK healthcare talent.

Market analysis of the firm’s key specialisms has also identified the most sought-after clinical roles across the UK, most of which already feature on the Government’s current Shortage Occupation List (SOL).

1. Accident and Emergency Doctors – There is currently an acute shortage of doctors to work in A&E departments, which is highlighted in the current SOL. As such, permanent professionals with experience in this area are highly sought after.

2. Radiographers – HPC registered radiographers are in short supply nationally, with the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) recently admitting that there is ‘no end in sight’ for the current staffing crisis. The organisation also revealed that the NHS spent nearly £88 million in 2016 paying for backlogs of radiology examinations to be reported – the equivalent to the salaries of 1,028 full-time consultants.

3. Mental Health Nurses – while the availability of permanent nursing talent across the board is notoriously sparse, experienced mental health nurses at band 5 and above are particularly sought-after. The Care Quality Commission has highlighted a crash in numbers over the past seven years as ‘underpinning’ a range of concerns facing the sector and we are currently seeing a boom in demand for ANP level professionals to be placed into mental health settings.

4. Occupational Health Nurses – We are currently seeing a rise in demand for occupational health nurses to work closely with employee line managers and HR professionals to promote good health in the workplace and reduce sickness rates. The shortage of candidates for these roles can be attributed to the fact that this route is not promoted as a viable career path.

5. Health Care Assistants – while HCAs are, in theory, relatively easy to source, finding the quality and volume of talent that trusts need at this level is a perpetual challenge for internal hiring managers. High levels of turnover exacerbate the situation, bogging down internal hiring managers whose time would be better spent on recruiting for specialist, niche roles.

Commenting on the shortages, Michael Johnson-Ellis, Managing Director at Healthier Recruitment, said:

“Local and national skills shortages mean that public sector organisations can struggle to recruit desperately needed healthcare professionals. However, while there are widespread perceptions that NHS trusts and other healthcare organisations must look to overseas to source the skills they need, we must begin by managing existing talent pools more effectively.

“For example, relying on temps and locums to fill positions better suited to permanent staff or those on fixed-term contracts erodes resources, while a failure to inspire and engage emerging talent pools will result in poor availability of skills moving forward.

“We must focus on creating a healthier NHS through best-practice workforce strategy. In order to advert ongoing skills shortages it is vital to combine efficient workforce planning in the short-term, and effective talent pipelining for the future.”