Flexible, productive and cost-effective: health workforce roles of the future

Innovative new roles and occupations that could possibly emerge in the health sector of the future are explored in a new working paper published today by Skills for Health.

Rehearsing Uncertain Futures – New roles and occupations reviews key trends shaping the health sector and considers the innovative new roles that may be needed to help employers develop the flexible and productive workforce of the future. They include the Remote Diagnostic Technician, a technical role linked to systems to monitor patients at home with long-term conditions. A ‘Personal Health Navigator’, an advocate and information broker who can help patients find their way through an increasingly complex and interlinked health and social care system, is also described. Others roles considered in the working paper include the Generic Community Worker, the General Surgery Practitioner and the Lifestyle Trainer – the latter combining the functions of a personal trainer with health screening, medication and dietary advice. The working paper is based on discussions with clinicians and senior service managers, visioning scenarios for the future. However, it notes that many of the roles are already discernible, as health sector employers seek to redefine traditional role boundaries and team structures in order to raise workforce flexibility and productivity, and improve quality of care. Skills for Health head of research Ian Wheeler said: “These roles may have been developed through future scenario planning, but in many cases they are based on fact and reflect new workforce structures and new ways of working that have already begun to emerge within the sector. “We expect this trend towards multi-disciplinary support roles to continue as employers seek to build greater flexibility and productivity into their workforces in response to the challenges of rising service demand, technological change and tighter financial circumstances. “Skills for Health is actively supporting such developments with skills and labour market analysis that helps employers understand their future needs, and a competence based approach to designing new roles that ensures quality standards are maintained as productivity improves.” Examples of ‘future’ roles that have already begun to emerge include the General Surgery Practitioner, which draws on a surgical care advanced practitioner role designed by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust using Skills for Health competences. The role has had a dramatic impact on workforce productivity, freeing up thousands of hours of registered practitioner time while saving on overtime and agency worker costs. It is now available as a ‘nationally transferable’ role template from Skills for Health. Other roles described in today’s working paper which are based on ‘real-life’ examples include the Remote Diagnostic Technician, which draws on recent work by North Yorkshire and York PCT. The PCT conducted a large-scale trial of telehealth technology to monitor patients with long-term chronic conditions such as heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease whilst at home. Evidence from the trial suggested that it significantly reduced clinicians’ workload and enabled them to manage patients more effectively. Skills for Health offers healthcare employers a range of templates for innovative new support roles that have already proven effective in driving up health workforce productivity and service quality. The templates include core competences for each role and are designed to allow customisation to meet employers’ local needs. * Rehearsing Uncertain Futures – New roles and occupations is available to download from www.skillsforhealth.org.uk/lmi, under ‘Future oriented reports’. For more information on Skills for Health’s Nationally Transferable Role templates, see www.skillsforhealth.org.uk/nationally-transferrable-roles ENDS Media contacts Dominic Moody, Press & Publicity Manager 0117 910 3853, 07768 188 994 dominic.moody@skillsforhealth.org.uk Notes to editors 1. Skills for Health offers a range of intelligence publications and services to help the UK’s healthcare employers understand the local, regional, and national picture on skills and labour market trends. Projects include the Rehearsing Uncertain Futures scenario planning programme, which provides a framework for future-oriented thinking and consultation for those interested in planning health services for the future. Members of the network are drawn from the NHS, independent and voluntary health sectors. 2. Skills for Health’s online library of nationally transferable role templates draws on best practice in new role design among healthcare employers throughout the UK. The templates bring together the core competences associated with each role, and allow employers to add specific competences according to local needs. 3. Skills for Health is the Sector Skills Council for all health sector employers: NHS, independent and third sector. Since 2002 we’ve been working with employers to get the right people, with the right skills, in the right place at the right time. We are the authoritative voice on skills issues for the health sector and offer proven workforce solutions and tools – with the expertise and experience to use them effectively. To find out more about our unique competence-based approach to workforce transformation and how we can help you drive up productivity and quality visit www.skillsforhealth.org.uk