A line of three doctors
Ensuring that current and future staff are equipped with sufficient skills and capabilities is critical to the future sustainability of both health and care services. The PIHR Future Ready Workforce sub-theme utilises the experience of our members, who train and support professionals across almost every healthcare occupation to produce high quality educational and workforce-related research.
Our research expertise ranges from clinical education and preparedness for practice through to recruitment and workforce migration, as well as the conditions, and health and wellbeing of the health and care workforce. Much of this work is undertaken by researchers in our Collaboration for the Advancement of Medical Education Research (CAMERa) research group. 

Mental health and wellbeing

PIHR researchers are engaging in workforce stress related research across a number of clinical areas, including social work, nursing and midwifery and have also been looking at the need for recovery amongst emergency physicians in the UK and Ireland. 
Recent examples include a rapid evidence review on the mental health of dental professionals. The study led by Anastasios Plessas, in collaboration with the University of Southampton and with funding from the General Dental Council, concluded that dentists suffer an increased level of stress and burnout, particularly general dental practitioners, with litigation and regulation the main stressors. Similarly research led by Professor Bridie Kent, involving surveys of the UK nursing and midwifery workforce found concerning levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stress and anxiety in respondents. Meanwhile Professor Jos Latour has explored the need for recovery and physician well-being in emergency departments, while Dr Susie Pearce and Professor Mary Hickson have secured funding from the Torbay Medical Research Fund for research to develop the clinical academic careers for nurses, midwives and allied health professional in Torbay and South Devon.
Stress arising from unmanageable case-loads is thought to be one of the main reasons why the average career span for social workers is less than eight years. Associate Professor Dr Oliver Beer’s research has primarily focused on the health and well-being of the child protection workforce, utilising innovative approaches to prevent and reduce work-related stress. He has also undertaken research on the workforce more widely including the perception of stress amongst social workers and the role of coping strategies. Meanwhile Dr Beth Moran's research has focused on how to best support social work students in practice placements particularly with regards to dealing with the emotional context and stresses of the work. She is also leading on a £52,593 project for the Health and Care Professions Council on preparedness for practice. 
Further details of research related to social workers can be found on the Social Work Research Group webpage
The unprofessional behaviours of some healthcare staff towards their colleagues can be both a contributor to and symptom of workplace mental health and wellbeing problems. The School of Nursing and Midwifery’s Professor Aled Jones has been working with colleagues in a number of institutions on a £298K NIHR funded realist review to improve understanding of how, why and in what situations staff unprofessional behaviours can be best reduced, managed and prevented. Learn more about the NIHR funded realist review.


The UK is heavily dependent on overseas qualified doctors to staff its healthcare system. According to the General Medical Council’s Workforce Report 2019, over 34.5% of doctors on the register received their primary medical qualification abroad, while 4% of doctors leave the UK medical workforce each year. 
In light of these issues, a team from CAMERa, led by Dr Nicola Brennan and involving Professor Tom Gale and Dr Marie Bryce, undertook a project for the General Medical Council to investigate patterns of doctors to and from the UK. Their report found an increasing dependence on non-UK trained doctors (particularly from India, Pakistan, Sudan, Egypt and Nigeria) to staff the UK’s healthcare system. The research also found that the decision for a doctor to migrate is multi-layered and is a complex balance between push/pull factors at macro-/meso-/micro-levels.

New roles

PIHR academics have also been researching the development of new health and care roles. 
Freedom to Speak Up Guardians
Local Freedom to Speak Up Guardians (referred to here as FTSUGs) were recently introduced in Acute Trusts and Mental Health Trusts to support staff who wish to raise concerns about the quality of care. Professor Aled Jones led a £628K NIHR project to better understand how the new roles have been introduced and whether they are helping staff speak up about their concerns. View further information on the NIHR website
Social Prescribing 
One such role is the social prescribing link worker. Based in GP practices, these provide practical and emotional community support to people referred to them by local agencies. The link workers have time to build trusting relationships, start with what matters to the person, create a shared plan and introduce people to community support. Researchers from the Community and Primary Care Research Group (Husk) have been investigating the experiences of SP link workers. View further information on social prescribing
Social Work 
The School of Health Professions’ Dr Kev Stone has been undertaking research on the role of Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs). This includes co-authoring a report with colleagues from UCLAN and Sheffield Hallam University on the experiences of AMHPs and best interest assessors for Social Work England, to find out how different professional backgrounds influenced specialist practice and how people experienced the support provided by these two roles.
Dietitians working as First Contact Practitioners
Professor Mary Hickson, Dr Avril Collinson and Dr Jenny Child have been exploring how dietitians can successfully take on a first contact practitioner role. Three service evaluations have demonstrated the value of a dietitian in the general practice team and they are planning a larger study to explore the cost benefits of these models.

Recruitment and Widening Participation

Recruitment is currently a major challenge across the NHS. However for some Allied Health Professions (AHPs) the issues are particularly stark. Health Education England (HEE) have coined the phrase ‘small and vulnerable / vital professions’ in relation to four AHPs: orthoptics, orthotics and prosthetics, podiatry and therapeutic radiography. Similar concerns also exist for Radiography and Operation Department Practice (ODPs). However many Armed Forces personnel (AFPs) retire from the services with a range of medical competencies that could be applied in AHP roles. 
With funding from HEE, Dr Sally Abey has been working with Zoe Grant at the University of Suffolk and Amanda Cox from the University of Leicester on a project to help establish a new supply chain for AFPs into higher education and specifically the following degree level programmes: Diagnostic Radiography, ODP, Orthoptics, Orthotics and Prosthetics, Podiatry, and Therapeutic Radiography. The project includes researching which qualifications are required by AFPs on entry to medical branches, identifying those which are and are not tarrifable to higher education and examining the gaps. 
In the long-term developing interest among young people is going to be an important component of addressing recruitment to AHPs. With this in mind, Sally is also leading on a project to develop six healthcare Girl Guide Award Challenges for occupational therapy, physiotherapy, optometry, social work, paramedicine and podiatry. The team is currently researching whether the challenge has: 
  • promoted foot health
  • created positive associations with feet
  • promoted the profession of podiatry.
Additional recent projects:
Mills I, Hanks S, Burns L, Bryce M. 'Exploration of barriers, facilitators and enablers influencing recruitment and retention of dentists and the dental team in South West England', Devon Local Dental Committee, September 2022 – September 2023, £44,000.
Mills I, Hanks S, Burns L, Bryce M. Exploring workforce recruitment and retention challenges in primary care: the experience, motivators and working patterns of Dental Foundation Trainees and Trainers. Health Education England. September 2022 – September 2023, £44,000.

Work conditions: professional regulation

CAMERa is a leading centre in health professions regulation research, with our work including research on a range of regulatory policies and processes, including Fitness to Practise, licensing and revalidation. We engage with key stakeholders to inform policy development and implementation and to understand the impacts of regulation on professional practice.
Our research in this theme also links to work across other CAMERa themes, as professional regulators play a key role in setting educational standards and quality assuring professional education, and are also taking an increasing interest in workforce issues.
Fitness to practise
Fitness to practise processes are a central feature of professional regulation, and our work in this area explores: the complaints and referrals which prompt fitness to practise proceedings; the functioning of fitness to practise procedures themselves; and quantitative analyses of trends within fitness to practise data.
CAMERa’s fitness to practise research includes studies commissioned by the General Dental Council (GDC), the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), and the General Medical Council (GMC).
Recent work has focused on seriousness in fitness to practise, exploring how the concept is understood and applied by within professional regulation. In 2018, they undertook a literature review on this topic, commissioned by the General Dental Council, and in 2022 they completed a report on how seriousness in Fitness to Practise (FtP) cases is understood and applied by UK health professions regulators for the GDC and NMC. 
As well as work on regulatory fitness to practise procedures, we also undertake research into local and organisational performance management and disciplinary processes for healthcare professionals.
Since 2010, CAMERa has undertaken research into the development and introduction of medical revalidation, a relicensing process which aims to ensure that doctors remain up-to-date and fit to practise through engagement in appraisal processes. Our team took part in two major national evaluations of the implementation of this flagship regulatory policy, between 2015 and 2018, funded by the General Medical Council and the Department of Health Policy Research Programme. This programme of work explored the impacts of revalidation for the medical profession and for healthcare organisations. 
Medical licensing
The introduction of a national medical licensing assessment in the United Kingdom is a major change in medical education in the UK, and CAMERa was commissioned by the General Medical Council to synthesis the evidence base on the impact of these types of assessments internationally.

Work conditions: remediation and professional support

Currently the NHS routinely provides professional support services (including remediation) for doctors. These provide help, guidance and access to additional training and support for doctors, to help with career development and to remedy problems they may have. Professional support covers a range of activities e.g. communication skills training, mentoring or coaching, resilience training. Research on professional support is generally sparse and in particular we do not know enough about how the different approaches to professional support work in the NHS. This could result in professional support being conducted ineffectively, wasting doctors’ time and taxpayers’ money.
Members of the CAMERa team are investigating several aspects of professional support and remediation, including how remediation interventions produces their effects, the impact of remediation on professional identities, the remediation of professionalism lapses and optimising the delivery of professional support programmes.
RESTORE 1 was conducted in collaboration with the Universities of Oxford and Aberdeen. This used realist review methods to develop a programme theory to explain how remediation interventions produce their effects. It is fundamental to understand the theory of how remediation of doctors is supposed to work, for whom and the contexts that lead to different outcomes, in order to design high-quality remediation interventions. The findings of this review were used to develop guidelines for tailoring and implementing effective remediation interventions for practising doctors. The study was funded by the NIHR Health and Social Care Delivery Research Programme.
Led by Dr Nicola Brennan, Associate Professor in Medical Education (Research), a team from the Collaboration for the Advancement of Medical Education Research and Assessment (CAMERa) research group in collaboration with the University of Oxford are undertaking a £742K project looking at how the NHS can optimise professional support programmes.
Remediation and professional identity
An important and under researched area on the remediation agenda is the impact undergoing a remediation programme has on the identity of a doctor. A PhD studentship being undertaken by Dr Jamie Read is using questionnaires and interviews to understand how remediation impacts on the professional identities of medical students and identify how remediation might be used to support appropriate identity formation. The output of the PhD will include a conceptual framework, from which interventions that better support students can be developed.
Remediation of professionalism lapses
The CAMERa team have a particular interest in the remediation of professionalism lapses in doctors and have carried out a systematic review of the literature to synthesise the evidence on existing interventions in this area. This review highlights the additional complexities of remediating professionalism issues compared to knowledge and skills.

Preparedness for Practice

It is vital that in every health and care profession, graduates are as well prepared as possible for their first day of work. 
The Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research has a rich collection of research related to the education and preparedness to practice of a wide range of health and care professionals.
Nursing and midwifery facilities. 
The Collaboration for the Advancement of Medical Education Research and Assessment (CAMERa) researchers aim to improve the development and sustainability of the healthcare workforce by focusing on three research themes, namely workforce development, continuum of education, and professional regulation.
CAMERa's research programme, carried out by a multi-professional group and employing a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, impacts directly on national and international literature, educational theory, practice and policy.
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