Building a flexible workforce to support NHS transformation by Mike Ruddle, Chief Commercial Officer

Like many organisations, NHS Professionals stepped up its operational pace in 2020/21 to reinforce the NHS in its greatest hour of need. We reorganised our teams, launched nationwide campaigns and recruited thousands of people into the healthcare system, fast.  

While we remain ready to step up our crisis response once again if needed, our focus now is to fully support the NHS in its recovery to help build a more sustainable workforce over the coming months and beyond. Although it has come at a huge price, the pandemic released an energy of change and increased the pace of transformation. There were numerous examples of this pace in the NHS before the pandemic, but it surged in 2020 and 2021. As the NHS People Plan states, the key challenge now is to sustain that. This energy will be important to help take Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) from their initial plans to operational reality and support efforts to clear backlogs of elective and diagnostic work. 

A vision of innovation 

Flexibility and agility are at the heart of our approach. It was clear that a flexible workforce was a vital asset to the NHS at the height of the pandemic. We have seen that new solutions can be found, and at speed and at scale – for instance with the Nightingale Hospitals’ rapid recruitment process.   

We believe this positive approach is also pivotal to the NHS’s future, especially as it moves into a new era of more integrated, place-based and people-centred care. As a result of our work and learning over the past 18 months, we now have an even stronger relationship with the Department of Health and Social Care and are engaged in conversations with their flexible staffing policy teams to plan what we can do to create more flexibility for the NHS workforce.  

Driving this work is our strategic vision, underpinned by a new and reinvigorated transformation plan. While some of the aims and objectives of our plan were successfully fast-tracked to meet pandemic demands, there is so much more value we can contribute towards helping the NHS achieve its stated workforce objectives all focused on championing the flexible worker and prioritising patient care.    

The aims of our transformation plan are to: 

become a ‘national bank’ of choice for flexible staffing and reduce the NHS dependence on external agency support 
become employer of choice for healthcare professionals in the workforce sector; building a membership and community model that supports our 180,000-strong talent pool of flexible NHS workers and providing high quality professional education and training opportunities to optimise attraction, engagement, productivity, and retention of the NHS workforce
develop new, value-adding and differentiated services to NHS Trusts that will meet the emerging needs of Integrated Care Systems (ICS) as they develop cross-system solutions, enabling us to be even more agile and responsive in the market 

The NHSP national workforce initiative is already underway and puts our key principles of agility and flexibility into action. It allows Bank Members to work at any NHSP Trust, giving them greater choice of shifts and locations. It also allows any NHSP Trusts full access to this new, super-flexible workforce at competitive rates and automates shift-fill to reduce administrative load at the Trust. It’s all about access and – in the spirit of place-based care – supporting all NHS Trusts and Care Providers across the country. 

Answering the challenge 

Underpinning our transformation plan this year will be a laser focus on continuing to deliver the highest quality of service to our Bank Members and client Trusts and making improvements where required. Nothing less than excellence will be our goal. That means investing in training and development, health and wellbeing and opportunity for both our Bank Members and our teams. It also means building our capabilities, systems, and processes so they are as simple, effective, and as user-friendly as possible for everyone we serve. 

The transformational task ahead of the NHS is daunting but it also holds the very real possibility of creating truly person-centred care delivered in a wider range of places and settings. We know there is so much more to do as we constantly work to support our communities. It is a challenge NHSP looks forward to answering in the busy months ahead. 


Mike Ruddle

Mike Ruddle - Chief Commercial Officer