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Strengthening workforce planning in the health and care bill

See the latest information and briefing on workforce planning in the Health and Care Bill.

The Royal College of Physicians is one of over 60 organisations supporting an amendment to the Health and Care Bill tabled by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt MP to strengthen workforce planning. 

You can download a briefing on this amendment at the bottom of this page. 

Ahead of Report Stage of the Health and Care Bill next week (22 November), Jeremy Hunt has tabled an amendment to Clause 34 of the Health and Care Bill that would require the secretary of state to publish independently verified assessments of current and future workforce numbers every two years consistent with Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) long-term fiscal projections.  

This amendment was previously tabled by Chris Skidmore MP at Committee Stage of the Bill in September, but was not pushed to a vote. Several health and care organisations including the RCP issued a joint briefing to Minister for Health Ed Argar about Skidmore’s amendment at Committee Stage. 

Jeremy Hunt has today re-tabled the amendment to be debated at Report Stage. The amendment has been tabled with the support of 36 cross-party MPs, including Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jonathan Ashworth MP.

The amendment is also supported by over 60 health and care organisations including the Royal College of Physicians, NHS Providers, the Health Foundation, Macmillan Cancer Support, the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing.  

Why do we need the amendment?  

Clause 34 of the Bill currently places a duty on the Secretary of State to publish a report describing the system in place for assessing and meeting workforce needs once a parliament. This will bring clarity to workforce planning but given the scale of the challenge facing the health and care workforce, it does not go far enough. The duty as currently proposed will not tell us whether we are training enough people now to deliver health and care services in future. 

The non-legislative approach to workforce planning has not worked. Regular, independent and public workforce projection data will not solve the workforce crisis. But it will provide strong foundations to understand how many staff will be needed in future to meet demand. The data should act as a tool to make strategic long-term decisions about investment in the workforce based on evolving changes in patient demand and working patterns among staff, such as a growing proportion of doctors working part-time.   

What happened at Committee Stage? 

When the amendment was debated at Committee Stage, the Minister said: 

  1. Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) will be given responsibility – already set out in draft guidance – to develop system wide plans to address current and future workforce supply locally and to undertake supply/demand planning based on population health needs. 

  2. It is a matter for debate as to what the most appropriate timescale is— once a parliament is a minimum, rather than maximum, period.   

  3. Health Education England's (HEE) “Framework 15” will help to ensure that we have the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours to deliver world-leading clinical services and continued high standards of patient care.  

Despite the arguments put forward by the Minister at committee stage, the MPs and organisations backing this amendment continue to believe it is vital that the Bill is amended to strengthen workforce planning and increase transparency and accountability on whether we are training enough people now to meet demand in future. 

ICBs do not have access to the levers that government does, such being able to increase training places or change immigration policies. This means that local assessments will not lead, for example, to national investment required to fill any staffing gaps that local ICB-led workforce assessments might reveal. Locally driven assessments have a place but should come alongside a national picture and direction of travel. 

The repeal of the Fixed Term Parliament Act means that ‘once-a-parliament’ will no longer be a fixed period. To enable the system to plan, reporting periods should be consistent and regular. A 2-year reporting cycle should allow sufficient time to begin action in response to the projected numbers, without leaving too long between cycles that the figures are different, or that action is lost to the electoral cycle. 

Finally, while HEE’s Strategic Framework for Workforce Planning for Health & Social Care consultation is welcome, the Framework alone will not solve the ongoing data gap on health and care staffing numbers to inform strategic workforce planning decisions at all levels. The current Framework 15 was first published in 2014, last updated in 2017, and yet we have no agreed, publicly available assessment of workforce numbers now nor into the future.  

Who's involved


See who is supporting the amendment to Clause 34 at Report Stage:

  • Academy of Medical Royal Colleges
  • Age UK
  • Alzheimers UK
  • Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation
  • Blood Cancer UK
  • Bowel Cancer UK
  • Brain Tumour Charity
  • Brain Tumour Research
  • Brain's Trust
  • Breast Cancer Now
  • British Heart Foundation
  • British Medical Association (BMA)
  • British Thoracic Society
  • Cancer Awareness for Teens & Twenties
  • Cancer Black Care
  • Cancer Research UK
  • Cancer52
  • Children with Cancer UK
  • Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group
  • CLL Support
  • Crohn's & Colitis UK
  • Diabetes UK
  • Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare
  • Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust
  • Health Foundation
  • Intensive Care Society
  • Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust
  • Kidney Cancer Support Network
  • Kidney Cancer UK
  • Macmillan Cancer Support
  • Mental Health Foundation
  • Mesothelioma UK
  • Mesothelioma UK
  • Myeloma UK
  • NHS Confederation
  • NHS Providers
  • Nuffield Trust
  • One Cancer Voice
  • Ovacome
  • Ovarian Cancer Action
  • Pancreatic Cancer UK
  • Parkinson's UK
  • Prostate Cancer UK
  • Rethink Mental Illness
  • Royal College of Anaesthetists
  • Royal College of Emergency Medicine
  • Royal College of General Practitioners
  • Royal College of Midwifery
  • Royal College of Nursing​
  • Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
  • Royal College of Ophthamologists
  • Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
  • Royal College of Pathologists
  • Royal College of Physicians​
  • Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow
  • Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists
  • Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh
  • Royal College of Surgeons in England
  • Sarcoma UK
  • Solving Kids Cancer
  • Stroke Association
  • Sue Ryder
  • Target Ovarian Cancer
  • Teenage Cancer Trust
  • The King's Fund
  • The Richmond Group
  • Young Lives vs Cancer