This time last year we had just published the interim People Plan and were all focused on developing the full NHS People Plan. Collaboration between the health and care organisations and their leaders was underpinned by the principles and values reflected in the NHS Constitution, and there is no doubt that the stronger relationships and enhanced joint working we had developed together during this time helped us immensely as we faced the onset of the pandemic.
As a result, we pulled together and responded to COVID-19 with a better understanding and recognition of our respective areas of expertise and our roles in the system. This also enabled us to make the most of all the skilled staff we had, including returners, students, trainees and learners to ensure that the care of patients remained our top priority.
Despite the inevitable delay COVID-19 has had on publishing the NHS People Plan, it strikes me that all the values we wanted to demonstrate as part of the People Plan have been seen and amplified in our collective response to COVID-19.
At the start of 2020, I don’t think many of us would have anticipated the impact COVID-19 could have on our services and people. The outpouring of public support seen across the country has been a tribute to the true and united spirit of the NHS, which is of course all down to those who work in it. So often over the years we’ve referred to ‘Our NHS’, but the reality of COVID-19 has proven that the NHS is a treasured part of every community and touches all our lives.
We need to embrace this spirit of selfless service and teamwork, and all the positive change that we aspired to achieve as part of the NHS People Plan, which has been massively accelerated in the health and care response to COVID-19.
COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact on frontline health and care staff, students and trainees, and we owe it to them to ensure they feel supported and respected. We also need to be brave as we discuss what we can and must do differently. Many of the necessary adjustments to education and training over the past few months show how innovative thinking has allowed changes that previously were a cause of conflict within and across professions. Not everything we have done collectively has worked as well as hoped but, where we see evidence that changing processes, structures and content of education and training leads to improved patient care then we must grasp this moment and build on the new approach.
We have a real opportunity here and now, to build on all our positive learning and progress throughout COVID-19, and to keep improving the quality of education and training provision to our students, learners and trainees. As collectively we begin to consider the next steps for the NHS People Plan our commitment and leadership to achieving that will be vital.
Interim Chief Executive
Health Education England