The recently published National Health Service (NHS) Long Term Workforce Plan outlines a 15-year strategy to tackle staff shortages across England’s healthcare system. A key component is expanding medical, nursing, and allied health degree programs to boost the domestic supply of clinical professionals. At i3 Simulations, we believe immersive virtual reality (VR) medical simulation is crucial for scaling clinical education and improving skill retention.
The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan was launched in 2023 to address staffing shortages across England’s National Health Service. It aims to boost recruitment and retention of clinical staff to meet demand from a growing and ageing population. Key goals include:
- Increasing medical school spots from 11,000 to 15,000 per year by 2031
- Growing nursing degree program capacity by 24,000 places per year by 2031
- Expanding GP speciality training by 50% to 6,000 places annually
- Introducing more apprenticeship routes into healthcare careers
- Improving staff retention through career development and flexible working
- Harnessing technology like AI to increase productivity
The plan sets ambitious targets for expanding the NHS clinical workforce through domestic training pathways. It also aims to reduce over-reliance on overseas recruitment. If goals are met, the NHS could have at least 60,000 more doctors and 170,000 more nurses by 2036. The government has pledged over £2.4 billion in additional funding over 5 years to support the plan.
How Can VR Medical Simulations Help?
VR enables universities to increase enrolment unconstrained by physical space limitations. Research shows VR accelerates skill acquisition and improves knowledge retention compared to traditional teaching methods.
VR simulations lead to faster skill uptake and long-term retention. This increased training efficiency allows healthcare programs to train more students ongoing using VR. VR also reduces reliance on access to real patients and costly physical simulation equipment.
In one study, VR showed a 335% increase in cost-utility compared to traditional manikin simulations. The portability and flexibility of VR solutions allow clinical training to scale in a cost-effective manner.
What’s Next for the NHS?
The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan also focuses on expanding apprenticeships to create earn-while-you-learn pathways into healthcare careers. Virtual reality (VR) medical simulations can provide clinical exposure apprentices may not get from on-the-job training alone. Portable VR headsets enable learning anytime, anywhere at the learner’s own pace.
For experienced National Health Service staff, VR training maintains clinical skills through continuing education. Practicing infrequent or high-risk procedures in VR improves overall patient safety and outcomes. Studies show VR training boosts confidence for experienced nurses returning after extended leave.
At i3 Simulations, our library of virtual reality experiences covers clinical domains like emergency medicine, diagnostics, and nursing. As the NHS implements this transformative workforce plan, we offer VR training tools to strengthen the healthcare workforce through the entire career journey – from education to professional development.