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Working flexibly and differently is the future

20 August 2020

Writing this message the day after A-Level results, it strikes me that the opportunities to move into a career in healthcare have never been so well showcased. Yesterday our Health Careers website saw a spike of 30% in the number of individuals visiting to understand the wide range of roles available. At the other end of the spectrum, I recently learned about one individual, a trained opera singer, who has chosen to re-train as a phlebotomist to play his part during the pandemic. I feel incredibly proud that HEE is playing its part in promoting all the options there are to work in the NHS, in both clinical and non-clinical careers.


As I talk to colleagues across the system, I am also struck by how those already embedded in our NHS have taken on board insights from the COVID pandemic. Working flexibly and differently, stepping into new roles, volunteering – with all of us adapting and supporting them. We need to listen to them and learn what we can do differently, more efficiently and effectively.

Looking at junior doctors specifically, they have been telling us for some time that the traditional model of medical training no longer suits many of them. We know that they do not wish to feel part of a conveyor belt that leads inevitably in one direction, hence the reason why HEE set up, alongside employers, regulators, medical Royal Colleges and the BMA, the successful Enhancing Junior Doctors’ Working Lives programme, with its emphasis on flexibility in the training pathway and improving medical education and training. This forms part of our wider work on Medical Education Reform within HEE.

But the needs of the system, of patients, of doctors and indeed of the wider clinical team, go beyond such flexible training initiatives, important as they are. It was in recognition of that fact that HEE brought together partners from across the health and care system – indeed many of you - alongside the voice of patients, to consider what the doctor of the next part of the 21st century might look like.

At HEE, we realised that together we could create a compelling vision that also needed to support the wider clinical team - including doctors working in more generalist ways with the wider multi-professional team, whilst maintaining outstanding levels of safety and quality. When COVID hit, suddenly we saw doctors delivering on the frontline much of what we were hearing would be needed in the decades to come. It brought into sharp focus how crucial generalist skills are in enabling doctors to manage complex patient care across different specialties.

So, the question was about how we could support them, developing the sorts of skills they need to deliver what patients and the NHS need in the next 20, 30, 40 years.

The Future Doctor co-created vision published a few weeks ago is the culmination of significant work and system-wide engagement, with the voice of providers prominently represented. It sets a clear direction for the next phase of our reforms for medical education and training so that our future doctors are equipped with the right skills to deliver care in an ever-changing health care landscape.

This vision for the future doctor outlines how we can reform medical education so doctors better understand population health needs, develop generalist skills and work effectively in multi-professional teams and in partnership with patients.

I am delighted that this direction of travel has been fully endorsed in the People Plan for 2020/21. HEE’s Medical Education Reform Programme is continuing to lead on taking forward work to realise the vision.

I am convinced that this will also lead to better patient care, because it will keep medicine as an attractive career, enabling us to supply more highly trained, highly skilled, highly motivated doctors with the skills they need to address the challenges of the future.

Of course, doctors do not work in isolation and although we started with medical education reforms, there are huge changes for other professions; the new paramedic degree, completely new roles in IAPT and in breast diagnostics and of course, recognising the need for career opportunities once qualified, the new expanded programme for Advanced Clinical Practice. HEE will be working with colleagues across the healthcare professions with a reform agenda to improve our offer to those choosing these careers and to deliver better outcomes for patients.

Please read the report, share it with your networks and discuss it. I hope you will continue to work closely in partnership with us to develop and put in place reforms to medical education that will inspire and deliver the next generation of doctors.

Posted by Wendy Reid, Interim Chief Executive