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The Health Secretary has announced plans to support greater flexible working in the NHS.
Speaking at the NHS Providers conference, Jeremy Hunt said the NHS was not doing enough on flexible working, given demand from staff – particularly on e-rostering.
He said: “In a working environment like the NHS, matching the right mix of staff to a shift or rota is a central organising principle.”
He added that while most trusts have access to e-rostering software, few are using it to its full potential. Earlier this year NHSI produced a best practice guide on e-rostering. Hunt wants all trusts to make sure they are meeting it by the end of next year.
He also announced funding for a new best-practice sharing initiative to allow staff in trusts that are meeting the standard to spread their knowledge to other trusts.
Among other announcements, Hunt said approval had been given to the new degree-level nursing apprenticeship which could mean nursing apprentices would be working from September. He added that the apprenticeship scheme aims to provide career progression through the nursing profession, from nursing associates upwards. Hunt said associates would complement nurses, freeing them up to focus on clinical work. He said his department is looking into regulation of a range of physician associate roles. He was also looking to create a smooth career path for a small number of advanced nurse practitioners who want to become doctors. Unions have expressed concerns about pay and the kind of duties nursing associates will perform. Unison said the Government should focus on addressing the nursing shortage rather than looking for “cheap alternatives”.
Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive, NHS Employers, said: “We welcome Mr Hunt’s focus on leadership and our workforce. Employers across the NHS are committed to improving the working environment for their people and recognise the importance of providing rewarding careers supported by greater flexibility and effective team-working. The opportunities to develop apprenticeship routes into our largest profession, nursing, are particularly welcome.”
Hunt also launched the GP Career Plus programme, set to begin in April 2017. The programme is aimed at GPs aged 55 to 59 who are at risk of leaving the profession. They will be recruited to 10 pilots to take on flexible roles such as providing cover, carrying out specific tasks such as managing long-term conditions, or doing home visits, and providing leadership through mentoring and coaching.