Headlines: August 29th, 2002

Information to support the development of the health workforce is held in isolated pockets without any links between them. The three main databases are held by the NHS national censuses, workforce development confederations across the country and the postgraduate deaneries responsible for medical training and they all operate independently. Data is also held by other employers and regulatory bodies.A Review of Workforce Information Needs has proposed far-reaching changes in the processes and planning systems for workforce development. It recommends a comprehensive review of existing information about the workforce in order to develop a robust dataset to support the new arrangements. As the health service changes, access to reliable data becomes more important. It is crucial to know about new ways of working and changes in skills and skill mix and changes in employment practices such as greater diversity in recruitment.

The review concludes that future information requirements should be structured around such major themes as patient safety, quality, risk management, lifelong learning, equal opportunities and diversity, and partnership working, rather than be confined to the needs of conventional workforce planning and education commissioning. It calls for an electronic staff record which should in part be realized through the new NHS human resources/payroll system. This would have shared ownership between employers and staff of the information in the record, with the possibility of Smartcard technology access.