Article | Health Affairs | November, 2013

Lessons from England's Health Care Workforce Redesign: No Quick Fixes

by Richard Bohmer and Candace Imison

Abstract

In 2000 the English National Health Service (NHS) began a series of workforce redesign initiatives that increased the number of doctors and nurses serving patients, expanded existing staff roles and developed new ones, redistributed health care work, and invested in teamwork. The English workforce redesign experience offers important lessons for US policy makers. Redesigning the health care workforce is not a quick fix to control costs or improve the quality of care. A poorly planned redesign can even result in increased costs and decreased quality. Changes in skill mix and role definitions should be preceded by a detailed analysis and redesign of the work performed by health care professionals. New roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined in advance, and teamwork models that include factors common in successful redesigns such as leadership, shared objectives, and training should be promoted. The focus should be on retraining current staff instead of hiring new workers. Finally, any workforce redesign must overcome opposition from professional bodies, individual practitioners, and regulators. England's experience suggests that progress is possible if workforce redesigns are planned carefully and implemented with skill.

Keywords: health care; Work force management; United Kingdom;

Citation:

Bohmer, Richard, and Candace Imison. "Lessons from England's Health Care Workforce Redesign: No Quick Fixes." Health Affairs 32, no. 11 (November, 2013): 2025–2031.