By Angela Middleton, Chairman of MiddletonMurray
Last week, I was surprised to read that the NHS staff vacancies currently top 86,000.
On closer inspection, I realised that 21% of these unfilled positions are clerical and administrative jobs, a statistic that should not be ignored. As the Chairman of an apprenticeship and training company, job statistics are a topic close to my heart. We need to put a magnifying glass up against the fact that there are over 18,000 unfilled positions that can and should be filled.
The skills shortage in the medical industry is widely documented, and Brexit’s impact could well exacerbate it unless action is taken now and new solutions are found. I'd suggest two immediate ones right off the bat for the admin vacancies; firstly, apprenticeships can support the jobs gap and secondly, processes should be automated, where possible.
There is no excuse for the NHS to not fill its empty administrative roles, as there are many people available in the marketplace who would relish these positions. The recruitment process is clearly not effective in this area which is even more surprising considering the Apprenticeship Levy.
The public sector has been paying the Apprenticeship Levy since it was introduced in April. This means that the NHS, along with all public sector services, now pays 0.5% of payroll money each month into a pot that can be reclaimed to train apprentices. This includes new entrants to their business (young school leavers right through to new recruits of any age) but also existing staff who want to upskill and progress their careers. Why isn't the NHS using their levy to fill some of these 18,000 positions, when this is a measure specifically designed to address skill challenges?
It is also worth considering why there’s such a large volume of administrative and clerical roles anyway, bearing in mind the Government's productivity drive. Across the board, employers need to take a serious look at how businesses are running and consider what processes can be made more efficient and whether systems can be introduced to carry out tasks.
We ought to be automating administrative tasks wherever we can and upskilling workers to do the interesting jobs that only a human can do. Certain roles and responsibilities are fraught with potential for human error and require backup in the case of staff absence, and these are the jobs that need to be automated as a priority.
The NHS needs to decide how they will deal with this sector of unfilled jobs to save time and the taxpayer’s money. My suggestion is to prioritise the automation of jobs and to not lose sight of the importance of apprenticeships. MiddletonMurray can help!