The National Audit Office will carry out an independent assessment of the modelling behind NHS England’s (NHSE) Long Term Workforce Plan, which is being used to understand how many doctors, nurses and other professionals the NHS expects to need in five, ten, and 15 years’ time.

NHSE has published its Long Term Workforce Plan, which is aimed at identifying sustainable staffing levels and strategies for recruitment and retention, using data and assumptions about supply and demand and other variables. The NAO will consider whether NHSE’s current approach to workforce modelling – and the models themselves – are a reasonable basis for strategic workforce planning.

The NAO’s independent assessment of the methodologies and approach for the models will therefore help to inform future updates to the modelling of demand and supply of workforce in the NHS. NHSE will continue to develop the models, with the Long Term Workforce Plan due to be updated every two years, and aligned to future Spending Review cycles as appropriate.

The NAO’s work will make use of its previously published Framework to Review Models. The UK’s independent public spending watchdog may also make recommendations about how NHSE could improve its models.

The NAO’s examination will include an assessment or consideration of:

  • the chosen methodologies for modelling the demand and supply of workforce
  • the accuracy and robustness of the models
  • the governance arrangements for the models
  • and the assumptions supporting the model and the approach taken to estimate uncertainty

The NAO will not assess aspects of the models relating to clinical judgement. The work will result in a published report, which will be available to Parliament and the public in the usual way. In conducting this work, the NAO will not be assessing the quality, content nor likely effectiveness of the LTWP itself.  However, the NAO may decide to review those aspects of the LTWP in the future.1

Ruth Kelly, NAO Chief Analyst, said: “The NAO will consider whether the models and their outputs are robust, fit for purpose for future workforce planning, and used appropriately. It’s also important to understand whether the models have been subject to appropriate scrutiny and challenge. We will review the assumptions, using workforce trends and other data, to assess whether they are reasonable.”

Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: “As our reports have repeatedly shown, getting to grips with its workforce challenges is crucial to the success of the NHS. We will use our analytical expertise to assess NHS England’s workforce modelling. As ever, we will conduct our work and report independently of government.”

Notes for editors

  1. The NAO agreed to undertake this independent assessment of NHS England models supporting the Long Term Workforce Plan following a request from HM Treasury, the DHSC and NHSE. While this engagement does not cover the LTWP itself, the NAO has often reported on workforce challenges facing the NHS. It may choose to undertake work on the LTWP itself. This would be announced on a work in progress note on the NAO website in the usual way.
  2. The NAO anticipates publishing its independent assessment in the first half of 2024.

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