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Developing the future research agenda for the health and social care workforce in the UK: findings from a national forum for policymakers and researchers
  • Tara Lamont,
  • Cat Chatfield,
  • Kieran Walshe
Tara Lamont
The Healthcare Improvement Studies Institute

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Cat Chatfield
Nuffield Trust
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Kieran Walshe
University of Manchester
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There is a gap between healthcare workforce research and decision-making in policy and practice. This matters more than ever given the urgent staffing crisis, with shortfalls of key workers and increasing service pressures. As a national research network, we held the first ever UK forum on health and care workforce research and evidence in March 2023 which aimed to bridge this gap. We brought together clinical and system leaders, policymakers and regulators with workforce researchers. Fifteen sessions convened by leading experts combined knowledge exchange with deliberative dialogue over two days. Topics ranged from workforce analytics, forecasting, international migration to interprofessional working. In these small groups, important knowledge gaps were identified, where existing research had not reached decision-makers. Managers were not aware of accepted high quality evidence in areas like the relationship between registered nurse staffing levels and patient outcomes. Participants also identified important gaps in research, both topic area and study design. More work is needed to engage new disciplines, from labour economics and occupational health to academic human resources. Mobilising knowledge across disciplines will strengthen the quality and range of research as well as identifying relevant and novel interventions. Discussion at the forum highlighted a number of national and local workforce initiatives which had been implemented at pace, from virtual wards to e-rostering and apprentice levies, without a good evidence base or concurrent evaluation. The pandemic had accelerated many changes, including important shifts in skill mix and new roles with little learning from other countries and systems. Existing evaluations were often small-scale or focused on individual, rather than organisational, solutions in areas such as staff wellbeing. The paper provides a summary of an emerging UK workforce research agenda developed at the forum meeting, together with actions to build workforce research capacity and increase reach of findings into policy and practice.
Submitted to International Journal of Health Planning and Management
25 Jan 2024Editorial Decision: Accept
07 Feb 2024Published in The International Journal of Health Planning and Management. https://doi.org/10.1002/hpm.3775