The NHS has appointed a “Head of Flexible Working” in a bid to encourage more part-time work in the health service.
The appointment – reporting to a “Head of Improving People Practices” – follows warnings from health chiefs that the NHS needs to recruit significantly more staff, because millennial workers do not expect to work the hours their predecessors put in.
And it comes as the head of Britain’s GPs said family doctors should no longer be expected to do the job full-time.
Health officials said the move is part of plans to ensure workers could have more flexible careers, and a better work/life balance.
But critics accused the NHS of spending money on “glorified pen pushers” using money which should be spent hiring frontline staff.
Both the Tories and Labour have pledged to increase spending on the NHS, and to expand its workforce.
But the Conservatives say staffing shortages would be exacerbated by Labour’s pledge to introduce a four-day week.
Labour has promised to spend £6bn more than Boris Johnson on the NHS by 2024, but the Conservatives say the funding would be eaten up by the cost of implementing a 32 hour work week.
The NHS Interim People Plan, published earlier this year, sets out ambitions to “give people greater choice over their working patterns, help them achieve a better work-life balance and help the NHS remain an attractive career choice”.
Research by the King’s Fund published last week shows that just one in 20 trainee GPs intends to do the job full-time, within a decade of qualifying.
Three quarters of the 840 medics polled intended to work between one and a half and three days a week in the post.
Healthcare planners have warned that the NHS needs almost 200,000 more staff to cope with rising pressures as millennial workers increasingly choose part-time work and career breaks.
Prof Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England said the attitudes of millennials – those born in the 80s and early 90s – were very different to previous generations, with a much bigger focus on “work/life balance”.
And he said the increasing number of women entering traditionally male-dominated health professions such as medicine meant the NHS needed to train far more staff, to cover the numbers working part-time. The average GP now works four days, down from four and a half days in 2009, with less than one in three family doctors working full time.
Jane Galloway, deputy director at the NHS London Leadership Academy, has been given the new job of Head of Flexible Working, reporting to the Head of Improving People Practices Raj Bhamber.
Prerana Issar, Chief People Officer at NHS England/Improvement said the new role reflected the ambitions laid out in their People Plan.
Kate Andrews, associate director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “Flexible work is fast becoming the norm in some job sectors across the UK, but these changes must happen organically, when the sector is fully braced for change.
“As every party pledges billions more to fund the National Health Service, questions will rightly be asked about where that money is going. If the NHS ends up with more employees dedicated to flexible working, while patient wait overnight for emergency care in A&E, or wait months on end for serious operations, politicians are going to have to explain how billions of pounds of taxpayer money has been prioritised and spent.”
Sam Packer, media campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “These kind of joke jobs would be funny if it weren’t so typical for the NHS to be wasting taxpayers’ money on glorified pen-pushers.
“The public hugely values the life-saving services the NHS delivers but detest their hard-earned tax being splurged on managerial waste.
“The NHS needs to start reflecting the public mood and ensure every penny of funding is focused on crucial services.”
Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers said: “The NHS is currently experiencing an unprecedented amount of pressure on its services, increasing sickness levels and a rising vacancy rate. It is absolutely right that flexible working practices are one of the priorities being focused on as part of the NHS People Plan.”
An NHS England spokesman said: “Recruiting and retaining world class staff to stay in the NHS for longer so there are more doctors and nurses to treat patients is a priority of the Long Term Plan and offering flexible working options is one of the many ways the NHS will achieve this.”