How digital partners can help the NHS build its future workforce

By Hazel Jones, Head of Health, Made Tech

Digital transformation is becoming increasingly prevalent in the NHS. Accelerated by Covid-19, healthcare services across the UK have had to embrace new technologies quicker than ever before to ensure they can keep operational and protect staff and patients during the pandemic.

From virtual visit software through to online consultation platforms, new tools are being implemented across primary and secondary care to digitally ‘level-up’ the NHS, replacing outdated legacy technologies in the process. While these changes are positive and have been a long time coming, they do raise questions that need to be answered if we are to make the most of digital acceleration.

One of these questions is how will the healthcare workforce need to change? This is an issue that’s been raised this year by Health Education England, which called for digital leaders in the NHS to help shape the future technology workforce and gain a greater understanding of the size of the workforce and skills required by 2030.

Inevitably, as the NHS further digitises and new technologies are implemented, the workforce will have to change to meet these new demands. New roles will need to be created, while current staff will need upskilling so they can understand how to operate and work with new solutions.

To help upskill internal staff and understand what new roles will be needed, NHS services should look to their delivery partners for support. It may sound contradictory to say external providers can help internal development, but through clearly defining these relationships and providers will see benefits.

When bringing in a digital provider to implement solutions, health services shouldn’t expect this relationship to be one of a company just coming in, putting in place new technologies and then leaving. If it is, it will mean that once a solution is live there may be no one internally, such as a product owner, who understands how to maximise its benefits or even use it effectively.

If NHS organisations include co-working ‘on the job’, this enables the delivery outcomes to be met, but with the additional benefit of upskilling internal teams during that journey. Pairing or buddying internal teams with the digital delivery team so that they are a part of the digital delivery is an effective way of rapidly upskilling internal teams within the context of a real project with real outcomes. This first-hand experience will mean that once completed, internal employees will have the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively manage products, teach other team members how to use them and even take on new job roles should they be required.

Digital providers can also advise services on recruitment, operating models and new role creation. Companies that implement solutions have, in some cases, years of experience developing and working with the products they are putting in place. NHS providers should tap into this experience, using their knowledge on what skills will be needed once a platform is live and find a person with these.

Healthcare is evolving and the workforce is going to need to evolve with it if we are to truly benefit from digital acceleration. NHS providers shouldn’t fear this change or feel they have to go it alone. Through working with digital providers and tapping into their knowledge and experience, the NHS can build a smart, capable and effective workforce that can harness new technologies to ensure they benefit staff and patients now and in the future


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