More Support Needed for ‘Unseen’ Medical HR Professionals

Around half of NHS staff who support doctors, nurses and the dental workforce with their pay, contracts and rota generation have said they are not satisfied at work and three-quarters have raised concerns about their workloads.

These are the key findings from a report from NHS Employers out today (Monday 26 September) which explores the challenges faced by people working in the medical staffing profession and how they can be better supported.

They come as the NHS continues to face a ‘staffing crisis’ with 132,000 vacancies across the country and as services grapple with staff burnout, rising care backlogs and the threat of a very challenging winter.

The medical staffing profession provide operational HR support to the medical and dental workforce and mostly sit within the HR function of NHS organisations. Around a 1,000 people work in these roles across the NHS.

They play a key role in supporting staff working across the NHS with contracts, pay, rota generation and workforce provision. This includes managing the August changeover – the largest annual rotation of doctors and dentists in training, involving more than 40,000 people.

Although many people in the medical staffing workforce felt they worked in a supportive team and were making a valuable contribution to the NHS, nearly half of them surveyed did not feel satisfied with their job role.

This was felt most strongly among staff such as rota coordinators who are on lower salary bands compared to people in management positions.

Furthermore, over half of people in the medical staffing profession believed that they did not have any dedicated time for training and development, with the main reasons cited being workload pressures, time constraints and managing tight deadlines.

Increased workload, resource and capacity constraints are the key challenges facing the medical staffing workforce, the NHS Employers report found. In the absence of any action which also addresses the visibility of the role and enhances career development, retention will continue to be an issue which will exacerbate existing staff shortages across the NHS.

In response, NHS Employers is calling on national bodies and system leaders to better meet the needs of people working in the medical staffing workforce and stands ready to support any action that is taken forward.

Paul Wallace, director of employment relations & reward at NHS Employers (part of the NHS Confederation), said:
“Staff working in the medical staffing workforce feel ‘unseen’, overlooked, over-worked and unsupported. They play a key role in supporting staff working across the NHS which has been particularly challenging during Covid as vacancies and staff absences increased. The NHS is facing a ‘staffing crisis’ and it’s important that their views are listened to or we risk exacerbating existing workforce shortages across the NHS.

“We hope this report will help provide the framework for discussions on how to work in a more collaborative way and look forward to hearing from colleagues across the system on how to make changes that create new and more effective ways of working, supporting the medical staffing profession to deliver their best for doctors, the needs of the service and patients.”

The report identifies a number of themes that national bodies and system leaders can take forward to address the challenges faced by people working in the medical staffing workforce and provides a framework for shared learning and good practice.

Themes identified from the report’s research include improving the visibility of the role, more support for people working in the medical staffing workforce, both in and across HR teams, and better workload and developmental opportunities to improve retention.

The survey was carried out between January and May 2022 and received over 550 responses, with a number of focus group sessions taking place to further explore the views of around 80 people working in medical staffing profession.

It is the first survey of its kind and was sent to medical staffing personnel, their managers and HR directors in all NHS trusts across England.