Building our workforce of the future

The Chief Allied Health Professions Officer looks at the NHS Interim People Plan and what it means for the AHPs:

The NHS Long Term Plan published in January details a vision of healthcare that is more personalised and patient-centred, more focused on prevention, and more likely to be delivered in the community and out of hospital.

Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) will be vital to the delivery of these ambitions.

The Interim NHS People Plan (IPP) has been developed collaboratively with national leaders and partners, including system leaders and details a vision for the actions that will be taken to help people working in the NHS deliver the care detailed within the NHS Long Term plan.

What I really welcome in the IPP is the very clear links to our current national AHP strategy for England, AHPs into Action. These links include our priorities to leadership and development and our commitment to care for those who care.  The IPP People Plan aims to develop multi professional, cross sectional system leadership, which will provide excellent opportunities for AHPs. There is also a commitment to develop a positive, inclusive and compassionate leadership culture to make the NHS the best place to work.

Some of the actions detailed within the IPP will make a difference in 2019/20, and some will lay the groundwork to make sure we can grow the NHS’s workforce in future, and to support and develop NHS leaders, a more detailed 5-year plan is to be developed, which will be published later this year.

We need to focus on three key areas in 2019/20; making Allied Health Professions a career of choice, support for undergraduates and new registrants to stay in their chosen profession and continued development of AHPs in terms of advanced practice, leadership and improvement.

I encourage you to get involved in promoting AHP careers within schools, register  as a NHS ambassador at Inspiring the future will connect you to schools in your area who would like to showcase career opportunities. Resources developed by Health Education England, such as the  Allied Health Professionals Roles and  The WOW Show, will support you to in this work, these films can be viewed online from 26 June 2019. Increased interest in our professions wil need varied work experience opportunities for prospective AHPs so they can be sure a career as an AHP is the right choice. The #Iseethedifference campaign showcases the 4 small and vital AHP professions including Orthoptists, Podiatrists, Therapeutic Radiographers and Prosthetists and Orthotists.

We need to bridge the gap between education and employment, expansion of the Strategic Interventions in Health Disciplines (SIHED) programme.  Separately, in addition, there is also a  Learning Support Fund which is available to support HEIs and AHP students in completing pre-registration courses and aims to reduce attrition rates.

An increased demand for AHP courses will need sufficient course and clinical placement capacity. Collaboration between universities and AHPs in provider organisations will be required to enable this, including development of placement capacity, more role emergent placements and opportunities for apprenticeship developments.

We also need to keep current students and newly qualified AHPs in the system and I am pleased to be able to share that the RePAIR project has been opened up to include AHP careers. This aims to reduce attrition of healthcare students and support retention of the newly qualified workforce through a number of interventions including supportive preceptorship programmes.

Whilst it is important to increase the pipeline of AHPs, it is equally important that we enable our workforce to deliver and grow. The NHS Long Term Plan will provide a range of opportunities for AHPs roles, in both the registered and support workforce to support the system.  Opportunities are being developed for all Allied Health Professions in advanced practice, including the level 7 Advanced practitioner apprenticeship.   We will also need to further develop AHPs’ skills in service improvement and leadership capability. The Allied Health Professionals’ Careers Resource provides a variety of examples of the universe of career opportunities open to AHPs.

A national AHP workforce group will be established to develop and enable an AHP workforce that supports delivery of the NHS long term plan.  This group will make recommendations for further action to support the work detailed above. So, the future is bright, and we can all play a part in developing and supporting an AHP workforce fit for the future.

The annexe Interim NHS People Plan: the future allied health professions and psychological professions workforce provides more detail on these priorities will be delivered.

Suzanne Rastrick

Suzanne qualified as an Occupational Therapist from Oxford. Suzanne was the first Allied Health Professional (AHP) to hold a substantive Director of Nursing post in both provider and commissioning organisations. She became the Chief Executive of a Primary Care Trust, where a particular highlight was having leadership responsibility for delivering health resilience and health ‘blue light’ services during the Olympic sailing events held in Dorset in 2012. She subsequently gained authorisation for a large Clinical Commissioning Group, before moving to her current post with NHS England. She was appointed as Chief Allied Health Professions Officer for England in September 2014.

In 2017 Suzanne launched the first AHP strategy for England which has been recognised as ground-breaking in policy development from its use of crowdsourcing. Building on this, Suzanne published the second AHP strategy – ‘AHPs Deliver’ in June 2022. This iteration had a greater emphasis on patient, public voice and specifically the inclusion of those who may be digitally excluded along with communities who may find it difficult to connect with traditional consultation methods. The result is a national strategy crowdsourced from diverse populations for people and communities AHPs serve.

For over three decades, Suzanne has held non-executive portfolios outside of the NHS, including audit committee chair roles, predominantly in the housing and charitable sector. Suzanne was recognised as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s birthday honours list 2019. In 2023 Suzanne was awarded a Visiting Professor role at St George’s, University of London and at Oxford Brookes University.

Follow Suzanne on Twitter/X @SuzanneRastrick or Instagram @chief_ahp_officer_england

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