Press Release

Minister Harris launches new National Framework to build workforce planning capacity in the health sector    

 The Minister for Health, Simon Harris today (Tuesday) launched a new National Framework to support the recruitment and retention of the right mix of staff across the health and social care system and build a sustainable, resilient workforce for the future.

The National Strategic Framework for Health and Social Care Workforce Planning was launched at the opening ceremony of the Global Forum for Human Resources for Health, which runs until this Friday in the RDS in Dublin and is being attended by 1,000 policy-makers and researchers from around the world.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Harris said; “Health workers are the backbone of sustainable health systems and increasing the recruitment and retention of staff is key to the future development of our health service. This new Framework will support an approach to workforce planning that will enable us to recruit and retain the right mix of health workers, across the health system. With a growing and ageing population this approach is essential if we are to meet the planned and projected need.

“The new Framework was developed by a Cross-Sectoral Steering Group, led by my Department and including key Government Departments and agencies in the health, education and children’s sectors, in addition to health workforce researchers and academics. A full public consultation process was carried out over the summer period and the framework was finalised taking stakeholder feedback into account. I want to thank all those involved for this very important piece of work.

“The objective of the Framework is to identify, agree and implement appropriate solutions to health workforce challenges – either within the health sector or inter-sectorally with education and other partners. As in many parts of the world, the health sector in Ireland is experiencing challenges in the recruitment and retention of health professionals, including doctors and nurses. Globally the WHO predicts a deficit of 18 million skilled health workers by 2030.

“The Framework will be implemented over a number of years, with an action plan for the first 18 months, which focuses on the early actions we need to take to build health workforce planning capacity in the health sector, and enhance engagement between the health and education sectors. We must all now work together to deliver the health services needed by our citizens now and in the future.”

Read the Framework here


Notes for the Editor

Global and regional health workforce demand is expected to increase in the coming decades as a consequence of population and economic growth, combined with demographic, epidemiological and other factors.

In this context, the European Commission estimates a potential shortfall of around 1 million health workers by 2020 (EU, 2012) and the WHO predicts a global deficit of 18 million skilled health professionals by 2030 (WHO, 2016).

The health sector in Ireland is already experiencing challenges in the recruitment and retention of health professionals, including doctors and nurses. While targeted efforts are underway to address current recruitment and retention issues, the potential impact of emerging and accelerating global and regional health workforce shortages on health professional recruitment and retention presents a significant strategic risk to the effective functioning of the Irish health system in the coming years.

Developing the Strategic Framework
In line with the Department’s Statement of Strategy 2016-2019, in June 2016, a Cross-Sectoral Steering Group was convened to develop a strategic framework for health and social care workforce planning for Ireland that will support the recruitment and retention of the right mix of health workers across the health system to meet planned and projected service need.

As well as the Department of Health, the Steering Group included officials from the Departments of Education and Skills, Public Expenditure and Reform, Children and Youth Affairs, Justice and Equality, Business, Enterprise and Innovation as well as representatives of the HSE, Tusla, the Higher Education Sector and agencies under the aegis of the Department of Health. The group undertook a stakeholder consultation process on its draft proposals during the second and third quarters of 2017. The Framework was approved by the Minister for Health at the end of October.

Components of the Strategic Framework

The framework comprises the following components:

  • a Five Step Approach to workforce planning;
  • structures and governance arrangements that support and enable the application of the Five Step Approach in the health sector and cross-sectorally, where appropriate.

Five Step Approach to Strategic Workforce Planning

A Five Step iterative approach to strategic workforce planning is proposed:

  • Step 1 commences with analysis of both the external and internal environment, including national policies/strategies and current/future health needs.
  • Step 2 focuses on the assessment of workforce demand and forecast of workforce supply, incorporates employment planning/monitoring, workforce intelligence, planning and modelling, and forecasting activities. On the supply side attention should be paid to data on production, attrition, entries and exits, and existing workforce characteristics including age and gender profiles.
  • Step 3 involves the identification of appropriate local and national HR solutions, and sectoral and cross-sectoral policy solutions. These might include education and training, immigration policies, employee engagement, career pathways, succession planning etc.
  • Step 4 focuses on planning and implementing the solutions that have been identified and agreed.
  • Given the iterative nature of the process, Step 5 involves monitoring and evaluation of both implementation and HR outcomes in order to inform future workforce planning cycles and solutions.

Structures and Governance Arrangements for Strategic Workforce Planning

In order to enable application of the Five Step Approach in the health sector and cross-sectorally, four levels of structures and governance arrangements are proposed. The objective is to align the system both vertically and horizontally, in order to support effective information flows about the current workforce and current and future needs, in order to identify, agree and implement appropriate short-, medium- and long-term HR and policy solutions (either within the health sector or cross-sectorally with education and other partners), recognising that such strategies and solutions must be designed and considered within the overall architecture of public sector human resource management.

The proposed structures comprise:

  • A Cross Departmental Group, chaired by the Department of Health and including the Departments of Education and Skills, Public Expenditure and Reform, Children and Youth Affairs, Business Enterprise and Innovation and Justice and Equality, which will oversee framework implementation and prioritise/approve cross-sectoral workforce planning projects;
  • A joint Department of Health/HSE/Tusla Strategic Workforce Planning Group, which will have sectoral oversight responsibility for framework implementation and will prioritise/approve workforce planning projects within the health/children sectors;
  • A HSE National Workforce Planning Unit, which will report on framework implementation and lead on strategic workforce planning in the health sector;
  • Local level workforce planning, where 1 and 3 year workforce plans will be prepared and short-term workforce gaps identified.

Implementing the Framework

Implementing the framework is a multi-year undertaking, involving actions and activities at various levels of the system – both sectorally and cross-sectorally. The early focus will be on initial implementation for the Q4 2017 to Q1 2019 period. Key action areas include:

  • Establishment of governance and framework oversight arrangements;
  • Resourcing the HSE Workforce Planning Unit;
  • Building effective communications and engagement strategies;
  • Establishing protocols for engagement between the health and education sectors;
  • Building the evidence base.

This initial implementation phase will also focus on identification of 2-3 priority workforce planning projects, relating to key national health policy or clinical strategy developments, in order to test, evaluate and refine the Five Step Approach.

It is proposed that the Cross Departmental Group will report to the Minister for Health on an annual basis regarding progress in implementing the framework. A mechanism for periodic review of the relevance and effectiveness of the framework is also proposed.