Speaking truth to power

The WFRC responds to parliamentary consultation on health workforce

Speaking truth to power might be a duty of researchers or ‘public intellectuals’ but we seldom have direct access to the ears of those in government.  Instead we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to disseminate research via reports, conferences, papers and the occasional press release in the hope that policy makers will listen.  When we heard that the House of Commons Health Committee wanted responses to its consultation on health education, training and workforce planning it was an opportunity we could not ignore.  We were able to call on the knowledge of WFRC members based in the Faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences who educate future health professionals to point out how the mix of skills of healthcare staff is changing – for example by extended scope physiotherapists who use techniques previously only used by orthopaedic surgeons. We crafted a short response to the consultation drawing on our expertise – for example citing our recent research about how information technology was being used to augment or ‘replace’ roles and at healthcare workplaces as learning environments.

Over a hundred individual pieces of written evidence were submitted alongside evidence from an impressive cast of witnesses ranging from Dr Peter Carter the General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, to Dr Patricia Hamilton CBE the Director of Medical Education at Department of Health. Launching the Committee’s report Stephen Dorrell MP criticised NHS workforce training as “complex, inflexible and unfair” and aired concerns about workforce planning in the reconfigured NHS. As we here at Southampton prepare for the new academic year – greeting the new cohorts of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals joining courses at this University, and as we continue to research healthcare work futures, we are looking through the government’s response to the inquiry, published in September to see if they were listening.