The health and justice inclusive workforce programme

The health and justice inclusive workforce programme was created in response to the NHS People Plan (2020/21), to help enable health and justice commissioned services tackle issues relating to workforce recruitment and retention. Health and justice commissioned services relate to health services provided in prisons, young offender institutions, immigration removal centres (IRCs), secure children’s homes, secure training centres and support services at the initial stages of the criminal justice system and post custody.

The inclusive workforce programme aimed ‘to improve the recruitment and retention of a larger, more diverse, inclusive and representative workforce for all health and justice services and programmes’.

The workforce challenges for health and justice services are similar to those faced by the wider NHS, with the additional challenge of delivering care within secure settings, to patients and service users that often experience a wide range of significant health inequalities, and all whilst working closely with our partner agencies (ie. the police, courts, prisons, young offender institutions, secure children’s homes and IRCs).

These unique settings present exciting learning and development opportunities for healthcare staff, as well as the potential to make a significant difference. Patients and service users within these settings typically present with a wide range of health and social care needs at an extremely vulnerable and difficult time, when receipt of the right care and support could significantly change the course of their lives. This programme developed a variety of resources and information to promote these opportunities and encourage individuals to join the health and justice workforce.

Another element of the programme was focused on facilitating the recruitment of people with lived experience of the criminal justice system into roles within health and justice commissioned services. This involved helping to address the barriers these individuals often experience and promoting the benefits of employing them to help address some of the wider workforce issues. We also took steps to promote diversity to help ensure our workforce reflects the communities we serve.

Following the development of a range of resources, information and guidance the programme closed at the end of year 2023/23. A showcase event was held 29 March 2023 to celebrate the work of the programme, which can be accessed via the NHS Futures platform.

What we did to achieve this programme of work

The programme was comprised of the following five work streams:

  1. Addressing equalities and reducing inequalities
  2. Raising the profile of health and justice careers
  3. Facilitating the recruitment of people with lived experience
  4. Commissioning to enable workforce development
  5. Programme communications and engagement activity.

Some of the resources delivered through these five work streams includes:

Following the programme close a few outstanding projects remain to be completed and will be available on the inclusive workforce programme FutureNHS page. These include both a clinical and non-clinical leadership pathway and guidance for preceptorships in adult prison healthcare. The Lived Experience Charter has also moved into it’s next phase, and is taking applications to received Charter status, if you would like to apply please see the Lived Experience Charter website.

Workforce Forums

Although the inclusive workforce programme has now finished, workforce challenges still remain in health and justice commissioned services. Alongside the resources, guidance and information developed nationally for use by health and justice providers and commissioners, we know that there is some excellent work being undertaken by providers and commissioning teams to support workforce development. To support the sharing of ideas and best practice two online forums have been developed on the inclusive workforce programme FutureNHS page, one for providers and one for commissioners.

Further information

To find out more about this work and access resources and materials to support recruitment and retention in health and justice commissioned services, you can join the inclusive workforce programme’s FutureNHS platform. You will need to register to join FutureNHS, if not already a member, and request membership of the inclusive workforce programme’s private online space.

You can also contact the inclusive workforce programme team by emailing