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HR topic: Combatting workforce shortages

Post date: 15/02/2024 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 14/03/2024

The healthcare sector in the UK, particularly general practitioner (GP) practices, is facing significant challenges amid continued workforce shortages and staff retention issues. GP partners will need to adapt their strategies in order to overcome the difficulties that arose, particularly since the COVID pandemic.

Within this article, Croner will delve into the current landscape, explore the root causes of these challenges, and discuss potential strategies to address them. 


Workforce shortages in GP practices 

Despite the government announcing a workforce plan increase the number of NHS employed staff to 2.4 million by 2037, GP practices across the UK are still facing a shortage of trained healthcare professionals. These shortages are multifaceted, encompassing various roles such medical practitioners, and administrative staff.  

The reasons behind these shortages are diverse with several factors contributing towards the growing challenges. These include an aging workforce, inadequate training opportunities, geographic disparities in staffing distribution, and the failure to attract new talent to the field.

Furthermore, the released workforce plan has already received significant criticism from key stakeholders within the healthcare sector. The HCSA and BMA have highlighted their concerns in condensing the current 5 year medical degree curriculum into 4 years. Although this proposed change would result in trained workers entering workplaces quicker, there are concerns surrounding the level of skill and experience that these professionals would bring to the sector.  


Staff retention challenges 

Healthcare practices are also encountering significant obstacles in retaining their current personnel amidst workforce shortages. While the NHS long-term workplace plan acknowledges the importance of retention, it overlooks the significance of pay structures in retaining staff. According to the BMA, the plan's effectiveness in retaining medical staff is questionable if their salaries continue to decline.

The demanding nature of the healthcare profession, combined with understaffing pressures, can result in burnout and job dissatisfaction among employees. Challenges in staff retention are further compounded by concerns related to work-life balance, career advancement prospects, and discrepancies in remuneration. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a significant impact on staff retention, with increased stress and anxiety levels experienced by healthcare workers. The exceptional demands placed on healthcare professionals during the pandemic have, in some cases, accelerated existing challenges related to staff retention, leading to increased turnover rates in GP practices. 


Addressing the challenges: potential strategies 

To address these challenges, it is essential to adopt a multifaceted approach that encompasses recruitment, training, retention strategies, and workforce planning. Forward-thinking initiatives may include targeted recruitment drives, collaboration between healthcare providers and educational institutions, investment in training and development programs, and the implementation of flexible working arrangements to support staff well-being.

Furthermore, proactive measures to improve workplace culture, recognize and reward staff contributions, and provide avenues for career advancement can significantly enhance staff retention in GP practices. 

In conclusion, the workforce shortages and staff retention challenges faced by GP practices in the UK are complex and demand strategic interventions. By understanding the root causes of these challenges and implementing targeted initiatives, the healthcare sector can work towards ensuring a robust and sustainable workforce that meets the evolving needs of patients and practitioners alike. 

As a member of Medical Protection, you can access expert complimentary HR and H&S support. Contact the Croner advisors today on 0844 561 8133 and quote your association reference number.


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