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We have an important job to do

3 December 2021

This week Navina is taking a well-deserved break and I am stepping in to write this update. It has certainly been a busy time with last week’s announcement that HEE will merge with NHS England and NHS Improvement to create a stronger organisation that aligns workforce, financial and service planning with education and training, COVID-19 recovery, the People Plan, and a robust workforce reform programme for the benefit of patients and the public. A joint statement from Dr Navina Evans and Amanda Pritchard can be found here.

In the meantime, we have an important job to do, and our focus remains on ‘business as usual’, fulfilling HEE’s unique role in the system, particularly through our part in long-term workforce planning, and through medical and clinical education and training reform.

Now, more than ever, I think it’s important that we continue to celebrate the amazing work that we are collectively doing, and to support one another. I’m really pleased to share with you, an area I am incredibly passionate about - Talent for Care (TFC), and their incredible work ahead of International Volunteering Day on the 5th of December 2021.

Talent for Care’s (TFC) vision is to support the NHS in England to widen access and participation by adapting and developing accessible employment, education, training, including apprenticeships and T levels to improve socio-economic, health and wellbeing outcomes in local populations, and to move towards a workforce that is reflective of the communities it serves, thereby reducing health inequalities. The team harnesses the power of volunteering through developing education, training, development and support programmes across health, social care, and the voluntary sector. TFC aims to help people “Get Ready, Get In, Get On and Go Further” in their journey towards a career and progression in the NHS.

With a focus on equality of opportunity, through the lens of widening access and participation, TFC supports employers to diversify their workforce supply through programmes that reach local communities of all ages from raising awareness of careers in health for young people and those wishing to join the NHS workforce such as work experience, to supporting individuals to develop in their long-term career, including with relevant qualifications.

Part of this work includes increasing awareness among diverse and underrepresented groups about the variety of roles available within the health and care sector, providing information and guidance, and importantly, providing access routes for people from non-traditional backgrounds to enter the NHS workforce. Of equal importance is the team’s work to break down systemic barriers that prevent sufficient career progression in the NHS for people from diverse backgrounds, so that once recruited, staff are retained and supported to advance.

While this is an expansive programme of work comprising many strands, widening access and participation remains the golden thread running throughout. With programmes providing a strategy that covers the entire workforce, from clinical to non-clinical roles and entry level to senior positions, with opportunities, education, and support for individuals from the very beginning of their careers with volunteering and work experience to apprenticeships, supported internships and progression such as access to medicine.

To accomplish this, the TFC team have developed strong partnerships across the health, care and education sector to create opportunities which meet the needs of the health and care workforce. They also support employers in the development, implementation, quality delivery and sustainability of widening access programmes.

These partnerships are vital, and we owe a huge amount of thanks to the employers we work with. It is their interest in developing these programmes and supporting local communities as part of our workforce strategy that really drives the success of the programmes, which are employer-led.

In addition to our work to help people in their journey towards a career in health and care, I am also keen to share a new report by Health Education England which has found that volunteering helps health and care staff in their career development and progression.

Examples of volunteering work carried out by our NHS people includes helping to feed patients on busy wards, acting as conversation partners with stroke victims, acting as NHS ambassadors to encourage and inspire next generation NHS staff, and stewarding at vaccination centres.

The opportunity to test out new ideas which they could implement in their substantive roles was another benefit of volunteering, while senior staff reported being able to connect with the frontline allowed them to make better strategic decisions for their organisation.

TFC’s work on apprenticeships has been much celebrated. Among their many accolades, they won the ‘outstanding contribution to the development of apprenticeships’ award in the employer category at the FE Week and Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) Apprenticeship Awards earlier this year. Over the past five years they have recorded around 85,000 work experience placements (20% taking place both online and direct delivery during the pandemic), and around 12,000 employability programme placements. Through three commissioned Access to Medicine and the Professions programmes, they have supported around 3,500 students, resulting in 80% going on to study medicine, allied health professions, and life science, undergraduate degrees.

Just in the past year, the Step into Work programme reached 442 long-term unemployed and marginalised individuals (within its’ first year- extended by six months due to COVID-19), with 54% recorded completions, leading to a further 41% progressing into health and social care employment at four weeks post-programme. They have also launched a National Work Experience Network, bringing together nearly 370 members together to share, discuss and collaborate.

These, and many more, are truly outstanding achievements and I am incredibly proud of the team and the work they are doing to widen access and address health inequalities in the population we serve. I would like to thank the team for their hard work, commitment, and collaboration with partners to achieve these fantastic results.

Best Wishes


Professor Mark Radford

Chief Nurse 

Health Education England

Posted by Professor Mark Radford

This Page was last updated on: 3 December 2021