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Educator Workforce Strategy

The demand for health and care services in the UK continues to increase. Although we now have the highest staffing levels in the history of the National Health Service (NHS), as well as more staff in training, demands for and expectations of this workforce have never been greater. A growing ageing population that has an increasing prevalence of chronic health problems, continuous improvements in our ability to diagnose and treat ill health and changing societal expectations, means that there are increasing workforce shortages, both in the UK and globally, despite associated staffing increases.

In the context of ever-increasing demands on the NHS, education and training are increasingly important because of the inextricable link between securing a future workforce, retaining our current workforce across clinical, practice and research roles, and maximising productivity of the current workforce through education and training to optimise capability and confidence at every level. Delivering our future workforce is ultimately dependent on a sustainable and high-quality educator workforce to support education and training, both in practice and in academic settings.

However, across the healthcare education sector and amongst service providers, concerns are consistently being raised about the capacity of the educator workforce to meet current and future demands.

  • Providing education and training is rewarding and enjoyable, but service pressures have eroded the time available for both supervising learners and supporting their wellbeing,  at a time when there are increasing numbers of students and trainees across healthcare professions.
  • The time to maintain and develop the knowledge and skills needed to develop and be an effective educator is being squeezed, yet there are rapidly evolving teaching and training methods and changing curricula. For some professions, there is no recognised time available for education and training.
  • As the need to expand education and training continues, there is an ageing demographic in the educator workforce. Pressure on academic roles and the pressures of balancing educator responsibilities with service commitments are recognised by younger clinicians, so fewer younger people want to take on the responsibilities. Plus, for many there is a lack of clear career pathways, rewards and opportunities for development.

With the urgent need to increase the supply of the healthcare workforce, including apprenticeships, new and advanced practice roles requiring associated educator capacity, the development of a sufficient appropriately skilled educator workforce is now recognised as a significant challenge internationally. Support and development for current educators, as well as succession planning, must be a priority if we are to meet the challenge to educate future healthcare professionals. A consistent culture of valuing education and training needs to be embedded in order that this becomes a core component for all.

The aim of the Educator Workforce Strategy is to set out actions that will lead to sufficient capacity and quality of educators to allow the growth in healthcare workforce that is needed to deliver care, now and in the future. An Implementation Plan will be developed by the new Workforce, Training and Education function, in conjunction with other functions, in NHS England.

This Educator Workforce Strategy complements the Long Term Workforce Plan for the NHS and presents an opportunity to rethink our approach to enabling and sustaining high quality healthcare education and training. It calls for a re-evaluation of the roles of educators across healthcare professions to ensure that we maximise evidence-based benefits and efficiencies in opportunities to both learn inter-professionally and learn from one another.

We owe it to our educators, our learners who benefit from their support, the patients they care for, and the people and communities they serve, to work together to deliver this Strategy.

Strategic priorities

For the latest EWS implementation slide deck, please email: england.educatorstrategy@nhs.net

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