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The media is forever telling us about staffing issues in the NHS. Indeed, the term ‘staffing crisis’ rarely seems to be too far away from ‘NHS’ in print or on the digital screen. Of course, the concerns are genuine, and the problems are very real. A poll of 2,600 doctors by the GMC (General Medical Council) in 2018 found that over 50% of UK doctors are considering either reducing their hours or quitting the NHS altogether. There is a high risk of an unprecedented ‘doctor drain’ that would have a devastating effect on the service.

Similarly, the last set of statistics published by NHS Digital revealed that vacancies for key groups of health professionals – doctors, nurses, therapists and midwives – across the NHS are at the highest level since records began. And we’ve not even mentioned ‘The ‘B’ Word yet. The potential impact of Brexit on NHS staffing issues has long been seen as a massive problem.

Something, quite clearly, needs to be done. Nobody is suggesting that the problems can be easily solved, or that the issues aren’t complex, but now an initiative run by NES (NHS Education for Scotland) is adopting a new approach – and it might just be showing the way for the rest of the UK.

Teachers and NHS career ambassadors will promote NHS jobs

The new campaign will promote the benefits of working for the NHS to school pupils across Scotland. A resource pack has been produced by NHS Education for Scotland so that young people can be fully informed about the range of careers that are available. All secondary school teachers and career advisers will have access to this resource. It is anticipated that the pack will be used at careers events and parents’ evenings in schools, as well as being available in job centres. Of course, the intention is that the pack, that includes lesson plans and activities, will be used in the classroom too.

Stronger links between education institutions and employers needed

The health sector is not alone in its attempts to forge better links between education providers and employers. It’s long been accepted that there is a need for stronger partnerships to be established between employers and schools. The need to raise awareness of careers and to engage with young people in creative ways has been highlighted. This campaign is an example of this in practice and is an important strand of the Developing the Young Workforce: Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy, launched by the Scottish Government.

It is hoped that the mix of hands-on, practical activities for the classroom, and the fact that NHS staff who are careers ambassadors will be able to use the materials when visiting schools to present assemblies or attend careers events, will engage young people and make them see the NHS as an attractive career route.

There is a belief that beyond the more obvious roles – such as doctors and nurses – young people simply aren’t aware of the wide range of job opportunities that the NHS can offer, from chefs to electricians to IT roles and many more.

The aim is to inform young people about the range of roles within the NHS that really do suit all interests, and to address the knowledge gaps that exist about NHS careers, entry requirements and education pathways.