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Workforce Planning Review

Part of Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 10:30 am on 13th October 2015.

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Photo of Maeve McLaughlin Maeve McLaughlin Sinn Féin 10:30 am, 13th October 2015

I beg to move

That this Assembly welcomes the Committee for Health, Social Services and Public Safety's review of workforce planning; and calls on the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to ensure that workforce planning is fully integrated with the implementation of Transforming Your Care.

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I welcome the opportunity to take the motion to the Floor of the Assembly today on an important piece of work around staffing requirements and workforce planning in the delivery of health and social care.

Since the publication of Transforming Your Care in December 2011, the Health Committee has carried out extensive scrutiny of various aspects of the policy and the proposals for implementation. We have looked at Transforming Your Care through the lens of health inequalities, learning disability, supported living for older people, outcomes frameworks and, most recently, workforce planning.

Transforming Your Care aspires to place the individual at the centre of health and social care services, with a shift left from hospital-based services to more community-based services. The strategic implementation plan for TYC acknowledges that achieving that shift left will require substantial workforce planning to ensure that the appropriate staff are in place to deliver that new model of care. Therefore, in light of the importance of workforce planning for the implementation of Transforming Your Care, the Committee decided to conduct a review of the workforce planning model in that context. We wanted to find out what level of progress had actually been made on workforce planning at regional and trust levels. We were also very interested in scrutinising some of the original assumptions in relation to workforce planning, specifically the notion that implementation of Transforming Your Care would require a 3% reduction in the overall workforce. The review looked at the difficulties around recruitment and retention of staff and whether those issues were being addressed by the Department at a strategic level. We also examined the Department's approach to involving staff, professional bodies and staff-side organisations in workforce planning and whether that approach has been appropriate or, indeed, effective to date.

In the course of the review, the Committee took evidence from a wide range of professional bodies representing staff across the health and social care sector, the unions, the health and social care trusts, the Department and the regional workforce planning group that it chairs. We also did a videoconference with officials from the Scottish Government, who provided us with very interesting assumptions on workforce planning.

I would like to refer to the situation regarding recruitment and retention of GPs. There have been 18 recommendations as a result of our inquiry. This was highlighted in the evidence from the BMA, and the Committee heard that GPs are increasingly choosing to leave or retire due to unreasonable workloads. The BMA advised that it has no evidence that investment has been shifted from hospital settings to primary care. It pointed out that there has been no additional investment in GP training places to allow for GPs, as a workforce, to take on new work that has traditionally been carried out in secondary care settings, as envisaged by Transforming Your Care. The Committee is deeply concerned that, while a number of successive reviews have recommended an increase in GP training places, this quite simply has not been implemented by the Department. The Committee therefore recommended that the Department implements the recommendation of the most recent review to recruit an additional 15 GP training places.

Secondly, I wish to highlight the Committee's concerns about the projected size of the workforce under Transforming Your Care. Specifically, the Committee wished to scrutinise the Department's original assumption that the implementation of Transforming Your Care would require a 3% reduction in the overall workforce. That assumption was contained in the public consultation document on Transforming Your Care, which clearly stated that a 3% reduction in the workforce, representing 1,620 staff, would be required for implementation. However, during an evidence session with the Department, the Committee was advised that the 3% figure had only been a working assumption at that time. It had been produced by the Health and Social Care Board, and the Department could not provide details of how the figure had been calculated.

The Committee wrote to the Department on two occasions to ask how the 3% figure had been arrived at, but, as yet, has not received a clear answer. The Committee asked again, in a further evidence session with the board itself, and was surprised by the response from board officials that they simply did not know where the figure came from.

When the Committee asked the professional bodies that gave evidence whether a 3% reduction in the workforce was feasible or realistic, the unanimous opinion was that it was neither. In evidence sessions with the Department, it became apparent that not only was the 3% reduction no longer a working assumption but that it was likely that an increase in the workforce would be required. However, the Department was unable to give an estimation of the size of that increase. In correspondence with the Committee, the Department advised:

"Going forward, no overall target for either an increase or decrease is being set for the HSC workforce as that would be arbitrary and would serve no useful purpose."

Given the increasing growth in demand for services over recent years, we welcome the fact that the Department is not working towards a 3% reduction in staffing as a target required to implement Transforming Your Care. However, we find it somewhat surprising that the Department was not able to advise us exactly how and why that figure was ever in a public consultation document on Transforming Your Care.

Given that it is now more than three years since the publication of Transforming Your Care, and the number of workforce reviews that have been carried out, the Committee finds it difficult to understand why the Department is unable to provide a figure for the size of the required workforce. The Committee therefore recommends that the Department produces an estimation of the percentage increase or decrease in the workforce required to implement Transforming Your Care.

Speaking as a constituency MLA, I would say that workforce planning is central to implementing Transforming Your Care. Staff are our most valuable resource. They are the foundation of our health service, and we need to work with them to bring forward the improvements and changes we all want.

This, today, is another sad indictment of the fact that we do have the DUP in the Chamber to listen but we do not have the DUP Minister at his desk, when evidence after evidence tells us that in terms of our staffing requirement we are heading for the rocks. Nor is he at his desk to respond to the clear recommendations that the Committee brings forward today.

I ask the Assembly to support the motion. Go raibh maith agat.