Introduction and summary

Our NHS is made up of 1.3 million people who care for the people of this country with skill, compassion and dedication.

Action from the Interim People Plan was already under way to increase the support and recognition for our people. Then the start of COVID-19 changed everything. Colleagues and loved ones were lost, and our people gave more of themselves than ever before.  The public responded with appreciation and warmth. The clapping has now stopped, but our people must remain at the heart of our NHS, and the nation, as we rebuild.

This plan sets out what the people of the NHS can expect – from their leaders and from each other – for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

About this plan

This plan sets out actions to support transformation across the whole NHS.  It focuses on how we must all continue to look after each other and foster a culture of inclusion and belonging, as well as action to grow our workforce, train our people, and work together differently to deliver patient care. The principles underpinning this action through 2020/21 must endure beyond that time.

The NHS is made up of people in many different roles, in different settings, employed in different ways, by a wide range of organisations. Many people providing NHS services work for NHS trusts. But others are employed by community interest and other companies or partnerships – for example, in primary care across GP practices, dental surgeries, pharmacies and optometrists.

The NHS also works closely with partners in social care and local government, as well as with the voluntary and independent sectors. We benefit from the contribution of those in unpaid roles too – particularly, carers and volunteers.

How different elements of the plan are implemented will vary across these different settings, but the principles it sets out apply across all organisations, and to all of our people involved in providing or commissioning NHS care. NHS England and Health Education England (HEE) will work with non-NHS employers and their representatives too, to agree how they support delivery of these principles in their organisations. Local systems and integrated care systems (ICSs) need to do the same for services they commission.

Systems have an important role in leading and overseeing progress on this agenda, strengthening collaboration among all health and care partners – particularly with social care – to meet the complex and evolving staffing needs of our services.

What our people need

Our NHS people have been under increasing pressure since the response to COVID-19 began, and there will be further challenges ahead. Workload remains a pressing concern and we have all been reminded how critical it is to look after our people – and that we need to do more.

In order to address this now, and for the future, the NHS needs more people, working differently, in a compassionate and inclusive culture:

  • more people in training and education, and being recruited to ensure that our services are appropriately staffed
  • working differently embracing new ways of working in teams, across organisations and sectors, and supported by technology
  • in a compassionate and inclusive culture building on the motivation at the heart of our NHS to look after and value our people, create a sense of belonging and promote a more inclusive service and workplace so that our people will want to stay.

This plan sets out practical actions that employers and systems should take, as well as the actions that NHS England and Health Education England will take, over the remainder of 2020/21. It focuses on:

  • Looking after our people particularly the actions we must all take to keep our people safe, healthy and well – both physically and psychologically.
  • Belonging in the NHS highlighting the support and action needed to create an organisational culture where everyone feels they belong.
  • New ways of working and delivering care emphasising that we need to make effective use of the full range of our people’s skills and experience to deliver the best possible patient care.
  • Growing for the future particularly the need to build on renewed interest in NHS careers, to expand and develop our workforce, as well as taking steps to retain colleagues for longer.

During the COVID-19 response so far, people have shown energy, creativity and drive in finding solutions to new problems. The NHS needs to harness that, as part of our commitment to make real and lasting change for our people.

The way this plan is translated into action will differ for each setting. But its intention and ambition should carry through our many different teams, organisations and systems. Each of us has a part to play in making this a lasting change. This is a task not just for human resource teams and senior leaders, but for everyone in the NHS.

Systems have a particularly important role to play, as set out in NHS system planning guidance.  As a minimum, all systems should develop a local People Plan in response to ‘We are the NHS: actions for us all’. Many organisations may also wish to do one for their individual organisations as well, which we encourage.

The purpose is to make sure that plans for recovery and stepping services back up through the remainder of 2020/21 have a strong focus on looking after our people, are aligned with service and financial plans, and are developed alongside partners – including in social care and public health.

These local People Plans should be reviewed by regional and system People Boards, and should be refreshed regularly in response to changes in demand or services.

The NHS has worked in partnership with social care during the pandemic so far, to provide support and to share workforce where possible. This was underpinned by the government’s care homes support plan as well as joint work at national and local level to support staff to return to the health and care sector, although only a small number were deployed into care homes. In order to ensure that social care has the support it needs in preparation for winter and future outbreaks, the NHS and social care should continue to work in close partnership at every level. In particular all systems should review their local workforce position with providers and implement arrangements for their areas to increase resilience and capability.

Action will need to continue beyond 2020/21

This plan focuses on the national and local steps that need to be taken for the rest of 2020/21 to support our people and help manage the pressures and uncertainty that will continue to be felt. The conversations that inform the local plans will be as important as the plans themselves.

However, transformation is an ongoing process and work will continue beyond 2020/21 in all of the areas set out in this plan. In addition, when the government further clarifies the available budget to expand the workforce and make sure that education and training is fit for the future – as expected to be set out in the forthcoming spending review – more details will follow.