RCPCH welcomes People Plan but warns recruitment crisis cannot wait

Our President, Professor Russell Viner, responds to the publication of the NHS People Plan 2020/21.

Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said: 

There are many positive and vital commitments in the new People Plan but the big limitation, as ever, is numbers and money. The NHS workforce was in a desperate state pre-COVID and the weight of the pandemic came down on too few shoulders. In paediatrics and child health, the coming period will be extremely difficult as we restore services, work to clear the backlog, and assess the impact on children and young people during the first wave. 

We warmly welcome the focus on wellbeing, but without a fully costed implementation plan to recruit and retain, this is no substitute for a proper workforce strategy. The government must commit to shoring up the workforce in the spending review. Warm words won’t cut it. People need to know that help is on the way.  

It is hard to truly capture how difficult this year has been for NHS staff and the extent of the anxiety and exhaustion as we get ready for winter. While there’s much to applaud in this plan, it does not go nearly far enough, and we call on the government to prove their regard for the NHS by properly funding it and providing recruitment commitments to heal our exhausted health service.

Professor Viner welcomed the focus on wellbeing and embedding the flexibility and cultural shift that happened during early months of the pandemic.  

The emphasis on new ways of working and flexibility for NHS staff is important and something that we should all welcome. Similarly, we know people felt empowered by a pragmatic and sensible approach to local decision making and governance. A lot of bureaucracy that seemed immovable fell away very quickly.  

I also strongly welcome the focus on diversity and inclusion. The pandemic has shown that our health service is often not a safe or welcoming environment for many of our colleagues. I’m pleased to see the plan sets out concrete timelines and a plan of action across the whole system. 

On 6 August we published our response and summary to this Plan.