Hertfordshire’s NHS workforce grew at a “steady” pace of 5.65 per cent over a two-year period, a meeting heard.

Doctors, pharmacists and other health professionals met with leaders from Herts and West Essex Integrated Care Board (ICB) during a meeting of its primary care transformation committee on Thursday, May 23.

They were shown the ‘system-level improvement’ plan written by the ICP outlining its plans to improve healthcare across the county.

The report stated: “Analysis shows that between December 2021 and December 2023 there has been a steady increase in full-time employment in the total primary care workforce which equates to 5.65 per cent (138 whole-time equivalent) rise over two-year period.

“The ratio between GPs and nurses in each Primary Care Network (PCN) varies considerably. However, it is important to note that many GP practices are experiencing significant challenges with recruiting and retaining staff; there are also various workforce models which involve different staff.

“Our data shows many admin/non-clinical roles. This reflects the increasing importance of this element of the primary care workforce.

“These roles are central to service delivery and are playing an increasingly pivotal role in care navigation and workflow.

“The age profile of key staff in primary care creates a risk with regards to future attrition

“Anecdotal evidence suggests vacancy rates are a concern across primary care, however currently data on vacancy rates and turnover isn’t collected, which means we don’t have a full picture and are unable to track changes over time. This has been identified as an area of further data development.

“The Training hub continues to support practices with the recruitment of staff and is currently working with Primary Care Careers to add a link to their website on the HWE Training Hub Website.”

The report also described new jobs created through the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS), a “revolutionary” plan designed to alleviate pressure on GP surgeries by appointing ‘direct patient care’ staff in a variety of frontline roles.

The report went on: “National commitment was to make available an extra £385 million in 2023/24 to deliver 26,000 more direct patient care staff employed and 50 million more appointments by March 2024 (versus 2019)

“In terms of the ARRS roles, by the end of 2023/2024 across Herts and West Essex, circa 740 new direct patient care roles had been added, including 175 clinical pharmacists; 44 first contact physios; 76 social prescribing link workers; 37 physicians associates; 38 paramedics and 24 mental health practitioners.

“Community pharmacists have been appointed to Primary Care Network (PCN) clinical leadership roles and are engaging with PCN/locality leadership to develop relationships and ways of collaborative working.”