back to article Tech job vacancies hamper England's digital health plans

The NHS in England has more than 3,000 vacant tech roles, according to a Parliamentary report that describes its progress against government-set digital targets as "inadequate." A survey of NHS trust leaders, carried out by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), found that there are 3,500 full-time tech pro roles …

  1. Plest Silver badge
    Happy

    £1m would barely cover the cost of a 3 nice lunches for the external contract companies like Crapita!

    I assume the £1m is just for advertising jobs? Advertise all you like, if the pay is not up to scratch then you've had it. Like 98% of people I don't work a job to say I've worked at organisaiton X, Y or Z, I work to pay my bills and put some savings aside for that glorious day in the future when I can finally tell my pension providers to crack open the goody-box I've been putting money in all these years!

    1. NeilPost

      It’ll pay for tea and biscuits for the recruitment.

    2. John H Woods Silver badge

      I think you'll find ...

      Liz T already cracked open that box. There might be something left if you're lucky.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wasn't there a recent discussion about "culture" ?

    Because the NHS culture is pretty much Kryptonite to IT professionals.

    1. Spoonsinger
      Pint

      Re: Wasn't there a recent discussion about "culture" ?

      Hacker: "The National Health Service, Humphrey, is an advanced case of galloping bureaucracy!"

      Sir Humphrey: "Oh, certainly not galloping. A gentle canter at the most."

    2. Nifty

      Re: Wasn't there a recent discussion about "culture" ?

      "NHS culture is pretty much Kryptonite to IT professionals"

      Maybe it was the 8 page, 100 question form that I was supposed to fill in...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Health plan?

    What's the additional health cover like...?

  4. Helcat

    I believe one of those 'tech' roles they've still got vacant is the one I left 5 years ago.

    I keep in touch with my former colleagues: They're good people and many I consider to be friends, so I do know the post is still vacant, covered by a contractor as they still haven't resolved the one basic issue: They're advertising for someone to work solo when other trusts advertise the same post as part of a team, and at higher pay. That's been one of the biggest issues since Agenda for Change was introduced: Each trust did their own job assessments to match posts to pay bands, but the next phase was never carried out: To match posts across the NHS so they were all aligned on duties and pay bands.

    That second step was to stop the poaching of staff that had plagued the NHS for decades. Never happened, so now you've got trusts trying to head hunt the best staff from other trusts while also trying to reduce headcount to meet some new cost saving target that's been imposed by government bean counters.

    Now consider that most of those cost savings were made by reducing back office head count such as IT...

    And NOW they realise they're short on IT staff, and no one is applying for those posts. Or rather, no one who is competent is, possibly because the pay is a little on the low side, still.

  5. Buzzword

    Pay seems low

    A keyword search for "software developer" on the NHS Jobs site shows the majority of roles are in the 30-40k range. Make of that what you will...

    1. itzumee

      Re: Pay seems low

      That's not gonna you someone highly skilled with loads of experience.

    2. tmTM

      Re: Pay seems low

      "Pay seems low"

      Common theme for public sector jobs, but don't ask for a pay rise - you wouldn't want to drive inflation!

  6. Handlebars

    walking through treacle

    Here and there you find great innovations going on. But huge amounts of time and energy are swallowed up with vague and changing requirements from the top, out of date tools, and suppliers giving you the runaround.

    There's yet another digital super-platform in the offing so put the Champaign on ice.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. spireite Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Available jobs.......

    As a previous poster said, I concur.

    I looked on their careers part of the site, and in this day and age no IT person would get out of their (hospital) bed for the peanuts they are offering.

    It is utterly underwhelming. Where they got the idea that those salaries would get people is a question we all have. They might get some near uni-levers (see what I did there?) but they'll be jumping ship as soon as they have the time under their belts.

    Their recruitment, and salaries, need to rejoin the real world.

  8. Dropper

    Don't really understand what this 1.1 million is supposed to be for? Certainly it can't possibly for wages - because it would cover a little over $366 per person if they need to hire 3000. The best guess I have is for recruitment services, but that won't help them.

    I've seen NHS jobs posted on indeed and I can't see why anyone would apply. The pay is horrendously low. Unless they're will to increase pay by at least 50%, they won't fill those vacancies.

  9. onumart

    Quick diagonal reading transformed "tech pro roles" to "tech proles" :)

    Reading other comments, probably not that big error ...

  10. gandalfcn Silver badge

    Will nobody think of the poor ERG and Brexiteers!

    The Tories are, and have been since Maggie, in the process of destroying the NHS in favour of a US style insurance company money mill and this low pat etc. is part of that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, that's why they're shovelling more money into it every single year. It's the only bit of government spending that gets real terms increases.

      The organisation needs reworking from the ground up.

      1. ragnar

        Only just real terms increases, and far below the rate of increase of demand for its services.

        The proportion of the population over 65 is rapidly increasing, where most healthcare demand lies. The collapse of social care is sucking resources from the NHS indirectly and directly and modern treatments cost more money.

        The NHS ranks well with competitors for value for money - we spend far lower as a % of GDP than comparable countries. It's a miracle it still works at all.

        1. gandalfcn Silver badge

          "the population over 65 is rapidly increasing, where most healthcare demand lies." The very demographic that slavishly vote for Tories and then complain about the NHS underfunding, smh.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Far lower"? It's in the top third of budgets in Europe.

          https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.XPD.CHEX.GD.ZS?most_recent_value_desc=true

      2. gandalfcn Silver badge

        "Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, that's why they're shovelling more money into it every single year. "

        Indeed, but people in the real world know that is nowhere need the increase required just to maintain a basic service and does not in any way meet the massive increase in demand, But then the Mail et al don't tell you the truth, do they. But the gullible Tory fanbois believe what they are told. like the FoxnotNews in the States.

        I am nowadays seriously concerned as to the mental compotemce of anyone spouting such obvious disinformation.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Whereas I question the mental competence of anyone claiming it's in any way an efficient organisation.

          The only way you can believe that is if you've never had any direct dealings with it.

          More money goes in every year, and less service comes out. Try doing that anywhere in the "real world" and see what happens.

          1. gandalfcn Silver badge

            "@Anonymous Coward

            Whereas I question the mental competence of anyone claiming it's in any way an efficient organisation." You do realise you are proving me correct, don't you. But given your comments I doubt that you can connect the dots.

      3. gandalfcn Silver badge

        "that's why they're shovelling more money into it every single year. "

        You need to read some salient facts and not the Daily Mail

        https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/news-item/myth-1-we-already-spend-too-much-on-health-and-our-outcomes-are-poor

        "Comparing spending by drawing on the proportion of GDP spent on health care is also not the best reflection of the resources the NHS has. The UK has a lower GDP per person than most western European and Anglosphere countries due to weak economic growth, which means that the actual amount spent is lower than in comparable countries. A more meaningful comparison could be made using the actual amount of money spent per person. This has to be adjusted for differences in purchasing power between countries (purchasing power parity), but when doing so it is clear that the NHS is less well placed."

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The salary is peanuts. Idiots are unsackable and just get promoted. The incompetence is unbelievable - they pay for the same thing twice, and it's the wrong thing. And so it goes on...

    1. Tomato42

      Pay peanuts, get monkeys.

  12. GruntyMcPugh

    I work in local Govt, and we have the same issue, the workforce is getting older, people leave and we aren't attracting young hires, as they can get better money elsewhere. We have one team where everybody left, so we've lost all the historic knowledge they had. Many of us are in our fifties and trying to work out how to retire as soon as possible.

  13. NeilPost

    All you need to know

    “ A survey of NHS trust leaders, carried out by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), found that there are 3,500 full-time tech pro roles vacant, which it puts down to poor pay and career opportunities, and competition with the wider industry.

    "Staffing gaps result in an over-reliance on commercial consultancy, which is costly and results in institutional knowledge being lost," the Parliamentary report says.”

    …says all you need to know.

    1. gandalfcn Silver badge

      Re: All you need to know

      "an over-reliance on commercial consultancy," aka privatisation

      1. gandalfcn Silver badge

        Re: All you need to know

        Dear downvoter, the Tory argument for privatisation of the NHS is to create a situation such that the NHS needs to employ consultants as proof that the NHS needs private constants to function. This is a prime example.

        Sadly some actually believe the criminal health system in the USA run by massively profitable big insurance and pharma is preferable. Amazing isn't it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: All you need to know

          Ah, I see Godwin's law of health care provision has been invoked.

          There are more than two health systems in the world, and most of them give better outcomes than the NHS.

          Take a look at the Netherlands for example - slightly lower funding, much better outcomes.

          Funded by the state but mostly provided by private organisations.

          1. gandalfcn Silver badge

            Re: All you need to know

            "There are more than two health systems in the world" Yes dear, we know.

            You are also twisting the facts about the Dutch system. Therefore again supporting my position.

            https://www.expatica.com/nl/healthcare/healthcare-basics/healthcare-in-the-netherlands-100057/

            I was hospitalised in the Havenziekenhuis so have experience of its quality.

            https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Havenziekenhuis

          2. gandalfcn Silver badge

            Re: All you need to know

            "There are more than two health systems in the world, and most of them give better outcomes than the NHS.": Bless. I have experienced quite a few of them as a consequence of my work and fortunately I have had the benefit of private insurance, which is good given the quality of many public systems.

            The NHS/UK still ranks 10th in the world so methinks you have a problem with your "facts", You obviously have a problem, and that is probably why you have a problem.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Way understaffed and underpaid while digital is the solution for everything

    Really enjoy working with the NHS tech bods, they have an in-the-trenches get-stuff-done approach without the blame culture I've seen in other domains (Pharma, looking at you). One team I work with is 12 bods and have vacancies for *4* more with 5-10yr enterprise experience in a pay band that puts them about 37-40k. For 5yr experience, you might get someone hopping in but not at 10 years. There's also requirements to be in the office X days a week, although I never see them sitting together on Zoom calls.

    What makes their job particularly hard is that digital is seen as a cost saving solution for everything, so the number of projects that land on their desks is huge. Furthermore, they often are stuck trying to integrate together proprietary 3rd party systems that are 20 years old. Sourcing support from the originating company is hard because they stopped supporting the system 10 years ago, so any consultancy needs that one person who still understands the system and they charge them out at a premium. So they end up scratching around at the edges trying to squeeze out what they can. Then just as a team is getting up some steam, they have a re-org and whatever the national program they're supposed to be following is canned with nothing to replace it.

    It hardly makes me feel like a place I'd want to work but huge props to those that do.

    Clients are NHS ICTs/trusts/healthboards; thus anon.

  15. Binraider Silver badge

    Unemployment - rather low. Cost, and barriers to retraining? Relatively high. And political churches of flag waving that put barriers on importing talent? Priceless.

    It's temporarily OK for us in the profession effectively being able to negotiate higher wages because of shortages; though this does not solve the shortage.

  16. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    There's also a problem in that the recruiters think "IT" is all the same. I'm a field engineer, and keep getting agencies trying to push me into service desk jobs. That's not only not my skill set, it's not my aptitude, I don't "do" random people calling me at random.

    1. NiceCuppaTea

      Theres a reason they call it helldesk afterall!

      Better to be the knight in shining armour that turns up with the replacement RAID card to save the day than the guy answering the phone to abuse!

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Right on time, in today's emails:

        "We have seen your CV and think this would be an ideal position: .... you will take calls from clients and assign the problem to the right team to fix."

        Sorry, but did you not even actually *read* my CV? I do the "go out and do the fix" bit not the "take the calls and pass them on" bit.

        1. Lil Endian Silver badge

          Odds against agency staff reading your CV and understanding any of it....?

  17. YARR

    I don't know exactly how the NHS is organised, but if every NHS trust must independently purchase and manage all it's IT services and systems, there must be huge duplication of effort and loss of scale efficiency. If the IT departments across different trusts could organise and co-ordinate their long term plans at a national level, perhaps they won't have so many vacancies and/or they could afford to pay staff more for having greater responsibility.

    1. ragnar

      Yep, this is the hidden (enormous) cost of Thatcher's internal market.

      https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/ournhs/billions-of-wasted-nhs-cash-noone-wants-to-mention/

    2. gandalfcn Silver badge

      "I don't know exactly how the NHS is organised" It was reorganised to fail and able to be privatised piecemeal, and the Tory voters keep voting for it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Organised that way in the name of theoretical competition between trusts to drive down costs. This theory works as long as the supply chain is adequate to keep up with demand, which it isn't.

      The problem them moves on to one of which trusts take the hit to develop new staff; knowing full well they will move to other trusts in time (or other industries).

      It's not a problem unique to the NHS, the utility sector has exactly the same issues, and, I am sure is true elsewhere too.

      A/C because this post reveals where I work!

  18. ecofeco Silver badge

    Staffing gap?

    I see the problem right away.

    It's not a staffing gap, it's a pay gap.

    There's an old saying: It's good to save money in business, but you CAN save yourself right out of business.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From the trenches

    Agree with what was said earlier about Agenda for Change, it doesn't work.

    The Trust I work for traditionally pays 1 band lower than neighbouring Trusts, hence constant drain.

    We did eventually get the banding revised after 18+ months of trying to recruit and failing, but the higher banding has higher responsibilities than neighbouring Trusts.

    However, grass isn't always greener...

    Pay is determined essentially by length of service, so an oxygen thief whose been their for years can earn more than a keen new starter who works their proverbial bollocks off.

    The last pay deal moved the gaps in pay progression as well.

    Fundamentally IT isn't valued by the NHS and it is categorised as Admin, not technical.

    It is not just IT n the NHS which is unattractive for applicants, it is generally an unattractive employer.

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