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Healthier Working Lives ;

Care analysis: retaining talent in the workforce

John Mathers, HWL advisor and former CEO of the Design Council, talks to Professor Annette Boaz, the new Director of the NIHR Health and Social Care Workforce Research Unit.

In conversation with Professor Annette Boaz, Director of the NIHR Health and Social Care Workforce Research Unit.

Annette, is Professor of Health and Social Care at King’s College London, and took up her new role heading up the Unit in October 2023 following the news that the Unit (part of the Policy Institute at King’s) will receive a further five years’ funding under the NIHR Policy Research Programme, starting in January 2024.

Contracted with the Department of Health and Social Care the Unit undertakes a wide programme of research and is also responsive to policy needs as they arise, so the unit has a close interest in the work of Healthier Working Lives, that’s led by Kings College London.

The Unit exists to develop research knowledge in the health and social care workforce field and to disseminate findings to policymakers, service providers, employers, and patient, service user and carer groups.

Whilst it’s early days into Annette’s new role, she talks compellingly about their mission.

What’s the relevance of NIHR Health and Social Care Workforce Research Unit to the Healthier Working Lives programme?

“We have a very wide agenda, looking at the many challenges for the health and social care workforce … in particular how can we look at both retaining experiences Care staff and improving their experience.

We understand that we are in a very privileged position with such close relationship roots directly into government and we produce a wide range of outputs … which we are constantly evolving … so, for instance the team are currently looking at animation to get their messages across.

We also understand that it is about building strong relationships which is why it’s so good to be talking to the Healthier Working Lives Programme team”

Is it simply about producing more research?

“Not always. Sometimes it’s about consolidating what we already know … there is a huge plurality of evidence and I think we’re all conscious that sometimes less can have a greater impact”

Oonagh Smyth, CEO of Skills for Care, talks about changing the profile of the Care industry ... how can we go about doing that?

“I absolutely agree that care work and care should be really valued. Crucially it’s about a period of life which is often the toughest for all of us.

There is probably no single solution … for us it’s increasingly important to support the workplace research which is going on.

And, yes, let’s reset the narrative.”

It’s clear that we need an unwavering focus on innovation in care … do you think it’s about time there was dedicated Care Sector Innovation Centre?

“We have a team here looking particularly at innovation in adult social care … the Centre is certainly an interesting idea … something where we can harness the energy and enthusiasm in the sector.

We do need to be aware, though, that we need to build a more robust evidence base around what works and where the real impact happens. There is an assumption that new technologies are the answer but we should also be aware that there are so many service opportunity areas.

We need to properly monitor and evaluate innovation. And understand that great innovation is fundamentally underpinned by a strong values-based approach”

Listen to the conversation … and, importantly, Annette’s final point that to see real change we need to understand that it’s not all just about urgency … but that we need to, sometimes, just “slow down and reflect”.

In this story

Annette Boaz

Annette Boaz

Professor of Health and Social Care

John Mathers

John Mathers

Healthier Working Lives Enterprise and Design lead

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