NHS needs more low-skilled staff to support GPs, says health official

Hiring more low-skilled staff to carry out basic tasks in primary care could help tackle the ongoing GP workload crisis, according to a senior NHS England official.

Speaking at the Londonwide LMCs conference on Thursday, head of quality improvement for NHS England Roger Durack said very basic care tasks were often delivered to patients by staff who were 'higher qualified' than necessary for these roles.

Mr Durack told the conference: ‘We have a specialist workforce delivering skills that only require a basic competency.

‘We are not by any means diminishing the need for professional qualifications,' he said. But he added: ‘Do we need someone with a degree to cut toenails?’

NHS workforce

Dr Asiya Yunus - a Londonwide LMCs medical director - and Mr Durack presented a new approach to workforce design that asked GPs to ‘focus on the demand for skill, rather than the supply of professionals’.

Splitting patient services into basic, intermediate or specialist categories, Mr Durack said, showed that the current staff delivering each task is often ‘higher qualified’ than necessary.

He called on practices to work with patients to identify services required, according to care pathway or patient groups. He said: ‘Think about the competency levels you need in your workforce to deliver the services patients need.’

Dr Yunus said 'redeployment and retraining are important to narrowing the gap' between the current workforce and what is required to meet patient need.

Skill mix

She added that approaching workforce design in this way could ‘offer some solutions’ in the current climate of the NHS. She added the strategy has been ‘shown to influence and make an impact in the community.’

At Sheffield teaching hospital physiotherapy and occupational therapy services have introduced more assistance and redesigned their workforce improve outcome to the patients.

Dr Yunus concluded: ‘This is about getting the right person doing the right job.’

Mr Durack urged GPs to become involved with educational planning to ensure patient needs are appropriately met in years to come.

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