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Indo-UK Healthcare Alliance to help NHS deal with staffing crisis

Leading experts from organisations spanning the private and public sectors, from both India and the UK came together for a dinner and discussion at the Soho Hotel in London. The event, which was hosted by TERN group and BAPIO brought together some of the most influential and experienced leaders in the Health, Tech and Recruitment sectors to put a plan in place for how to address the talent shortage in the NHS.

This high power gathering with attendance from the Indian High Commission, former NHS England Chairman, BAPIO Training Academy CEO, Chief Executives/CMOs/Directors of NHS Trusts, CEOs of Healthcare companies working for NHS came together as the Indo-UK Healthcare Alliance – a steering group launched by Professor Parag Singhal to promote excellence in the Healthcare sector, providing a platform for the healthcare institutions in the UK and India to create synergistic partnerships aimed at improving health outcomes.

Various topics were discussed, with many sobering facts and stories being shared within the group. There was a clear agreement that the current model in the NHS is not sustainable and it’s not hyperbole to say that the system is broken. Lord Prior, the former chairman of NHS England explained that one of the causes of this is that in the UK we have not paid sufficient attention to the workforce that we need to run a modern Healthcare System.

“There are over 150,000 vacancies in NHS England alone with a similar number in social care. This is set to get worse over coming years because of changing demography – the UK fertility rate has steadily dropped over the past 50 years and so in the absence of people coming here from other countries we are an increasingly elderly and declining population” said Lord Prior.

One guest added that four out of five of those NHS vacancies are covered by agency staff in nursing and the figure is seven out of eight for doctors. This brings real problems, not only of cost but also quality.

Dr Sandeep Singh Kaura from India’s National Skills Development Corporation explained that India has for many years focused on building its national health infrastructure and is now well placed to turn its attention to other parts of the world.

“India’s vision is to become the skills capital of the world and we see the health care sector as an important part of that. We are working with governments across the world, including the UK, to meet skills demand on both a short and long term basis”.

Lord Prior acknowledged the invaluable contributions of Indian Healthcare professionals to the NHS since 1948, and flagged that with over 150,000 vacancies out of 360,000 in NHS England alone, collaboration between India and the UK is crucial.

Professor Parag Singhal, the CEO of the BAPIO Training Academy explained that there are approximately 40,000 to 50,000 nurses of Indian origin currently employed in the UK. Efforts are underway to replicate this success in other healthcare professions through collaborative initiatives with NHS England.

The meeting didn’t just bring together relevant stakeholders to identify challenges and discuss what could be done, there were real, tangible outcomes that came from the event. Immediate solutions which could be rolled out and actioned to address the pain points in the migrant’s international recruitment journey, be it from onboarding to accommodation.

Recognizing the pressing need for housing solutions in healthcare, TERN has joined forces with a prop-tech firm to tackle this challenge head-on. Technology is used to create maps pinpointing optimal housing locations within a specified commute time from hospitals, enabling healthcare professionals to find suitable accommodations conveniently (such as finding viable housing options within a 30-minute commute from St. Mary’s Hospital in areas like Ealing and Southall). The ‘Project 20,000’ Initiative has now launched, and has identified approximately 20,000 units near NHS hospitals across the country to provide tailored housing solutions to trusts and hospitals nationwide, leveraging technology to calculate precise commute times and suitable safe housing for migrant workers.

Discussions highlighted how there are many barriers at a systemic level and at an individual level that make recruitment from overseas difficult and also highlighted the importance of focusing on retention measures.

Barriers include language and exploitation of Indian nurses in particular by scams promising to help them hone their English speaking skills. There is also the difficulty in accessing the housing market in the UK, both in terms of cost or in terms of a requirement for references from previous landlords or indeed the fact that personal finance data is difficult to transfer from India to the UK. Digital and App based solutions such as those provided by Pillar are helping to overcome this with products including a rental guarantee scheme and the transfer of their home credit ratings to the UK.

The initiation of a pilot scheme was set up, these projects, conducted by the Alliance with some selected trusts across the NHS will be rolled out in the coming weeks and will address the pressing NHS workforce challenges of finding and retaining the high quality consultant-level doctors, both holistically and ethically. Please contact [email protected] if your trust would like to learn more about this pilot programme.

“We’re really proud to have been able to facilitate this event and in doing so get tangible actions and systems in place already, too many of these groups and dinners take place, but there’s no real outcome”, says Avinav Nigam, CEO and Founder of TERN, “ We’re so pleased with what we’ve already managed to achieve and are really looking forward to celebrating the results of the pilot schemes, with a view to rolling this out to Trusts across the UK and supporting the NHS in perpetuity”.

The roundtable dinner at the Soho Hotel highlighted the wide range of approaches and partners that have come together to enable successful collaboration between India and the UK – collaboration that addresses the ambitions of health practitioners from India and which supports the ambitions of the Indian government to be the skills capital of the world. Most importantly though, it supports the NHS to respond to critical skills shortages and the need for longer term workforce planning. London Daily News

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