Cancer Workforce Planning: 5 Key insights

As we grapple with the return of COVID to our hospitals at scale, workforce planning is more critical than ever if patients are to have timely access to cancer services.

The Long Term Plan has set out a series of new objectives for meeting the growing workforce gap across different staffing groups, as well as providing a key focus on retaining staff including:

  • Clinical and Medical Oncologists
  • Nursing
  • Gastroenterology
  • Clinical Radiologists
  • Therapeutic Radiographers
  • Diagnostic Workforce

The impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on delivering services across Cancer and Diagnostics has led to a growing need to support the workforce and manage increasing shortfalls in staffing numbers.

Sir Mike Richards recent Diagnostics Recovery and Renewal report also refers to the need to address the growing workforce gap to support diagnostic services to meet growing demand. The report has identified the development and training of an additional 2,000 radiologists and 4,000 radiographers as a key requirement.

Attain has extensive experience of Workforce Planning with a focus across 1,3 and 5 years (and beyond) to ensure that clinical teams are planned, recruited, trained and retained in order to meet the growing pressures faced by Cancer and Diagnostic Services. Key insights from our work include:

  • Baselining and modelling the workforce: The multiple lenses we apply when looking at the workforce, ranging from detailed team ways of working to forecasting system staff supply, ensure that we avoid the drawbacks that characterise traditional demand and models that opt for a more high-level approach and can often lead to available capacity being overestimated. This also provides an in-depth analysis of future pressure points and enables workforce planning to address these head on with realistic staffing solutions.
  • Focus on retention: Working with staff groups across all layers of the organisation and across Places and Systems is key to determining the ways we can best support the workforce with personal development , flexible working arrangements and key enablers to keep staff motivated and productive as they develop their careers within the NHS.
  • System wide recruitment: With a current baseline and future forecast, a highly targeted strategic recruitment approach can be taken across a wider geography to develop shared roles, appoint to the needs of providers within a larger system and work together to reduce competition and promote service ‘load-levelling’.
  • Training and Development: Once accurate and realistic future staffing skill mix requirements are identified, and there is an agreed target for longer term staffing, training and developments plans across organisations and systems can be developed to ensure the optimal future skill mix can be achieved.
  • Innovation and new workforce models: Developing new roles and new approaches using technology, digital and AI can support our teams to provide patients with better access to higher quality services.

When workforce planning is applied in this way, withthe right levels of engagement with clinical and non-clinical teams, it helps us identify how capacity can be enhanced when Trusts are facing the greatest levels of strain.

Attain draws heavily on our experience across England of assessing how different skill mix arrangements can improve capacity and how technology can support with the automation of key elements ofthe service including incoming cancer and diagnostic demand management, BI functions and patient attendance management.

The practical application of all these approaches is central to our workforce support. We can support your teams to determinequick wins that can help free up staffing capacity , identify and implement initiatives to support and retain staff as well as the longer term skill mix redesign approaches and developing new roles for the future to ensure we are ready for meeting the challenges of tomorrow.

To find out more about how we can support you with cancer services and workforce planning, please contact Sophia Malik