Addressing geographical inequality in long term workforce planning

The eagerly awaited NHS Long Term Workforce Plan was published this summer, highlighting the need to train, retain and reform NHS staff to develop a sustainable workforce fit for the future. But how does geography play a role in meeting future demand?

The plan highlights that disadvantaged areas, particularly in coastal communities, find it harder to attract and retain staff. Data illustrates that disadvantaged areas, particularly areas with high levels on the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), will experience a higher demand on health services, both now and in the future. This, coupled with an anticipated 55% growth in people over the age of 85 by 2037, could result in further strain on services within those communities.

The plan sets out tactics to address these challenges, including a commitment to train people in a variety of different roles, through a variety of different mechanisms, such as apprenticeships and blended learning opportunities. The plan also addresses the need to focus additional places in geographical areas with the greatest staff shortfalls, in particular in services such as primary care, mental health and cancer.

So how can SHAPE help?

SHAPE already maps existing workforce information, including staff age bandings to provide an indication of the volumes of staff in the later stages of their careers. This, coupled with current vacancy data, could provide a “where are we now” visual.

Alongside these datasets, population growth and detailed demographic information can provide a high level indication of the potential service pinch points over the next 5, 10 and 15 years.

Finally, by highlighting new staff entry points, be that apprenticeship uptake or those enrolled on academic courses within a particular locality, we can begin to create a long-term picture about how the workforce gap is being bridged, and highlight focus areas for further consideration.

If you’d like to explore this a little further, please contact