Government response to report rejects calls to change pay scales for DDaT staff, but highlights upcoming digital workforce plan

Government ministers have rejected calls to “allow NHS England to move away from Agenda for Change pay scales when recruiting Data, Digital and Technology (DDaT) specialists to ensure it can recruit and retain the people that it needs”, following the recommendation set out in the Health and Social Care Committee’s report on digital transformation earlier in the year.

The response points to the long-term workforce plan, covered by HTN here, as a means to “help ensure that we have the right numbers of staff with the right skills”, but ultimately states that “given the complexity of the problem, the solution requires a broader approach”.

The government highlights that an upcoming national digital workforce plan is to set out additional measures and actions for the next five years to build capacity in this area. This will include working with the NHS Staff Council to understand how the pay system can support recruitment and retention of digital roles; attracting “new and diverse talent” through a national awareness campaign, graduates and apprenticeships, place-based shared resourcing models and partnership working; and a focus on “growing and retaining our own”.

In addition, the government will be emphasising professionalising the DDaT and clinical informatics workforce in terms of competencies, career pathways and profession governance; realising the value of the DDaT workforce through leadership development, succession planning and ‘what good looks like’ guidance; and improving planning tools for the workforce.

Over the next two years, the government pledges to set in motion the establishment of regional DDaT profession partnerships, and national guidance development and enablers to ensure that the system can “better attract, recruit and retain DDaT talent in a competitive market for skills”.

Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee Steve Brine MP, commented: “We are concerned that the Government has rejected our call to help the NHS as it battles to recruit and retain the specialist digital workforce needed now. Ministers blame an ‘inflexible’ pay structure, yet it is in their hands to change it and we would argue is rather self-defeating to leave things as they are in what is an extremely competitive, and global, workforce.”

Read the government response to the digital transformation report in full here.

In June, we shared the keynote talk from secretary of health and social care Steve Barclay, in which he pledged to protect the tech budget “and those key investments that will help us in the long term.”

We also hosted a discussion on developing a digital workforce and digital skills in May in which our panellists focused on preparing people for digital roles, how to foster change and innovation, and more. Catch up here.