Rural Workforce Response to the NHS Workforce strategy to 2027 – Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future

The National Health Service (NHS) and social care face significant challenges in improving the quality of care for patients today and in the future by ensuring a workforce in the right numbers with the right skills, values and behaviours in the right place at the right time. 

In December 2017 a system-wide Workforce Strategy consultation was launched. The draft health and workforce strategy to 2027, entitled Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future was launched, based on six principles:

  1. Securing the supply of staff 
  2. Enabling a flexible and adaptable workforce through our investment in educating and training new and current staff
  3. Providing broad pathways for careers in the NHS
  4. Widening participation in NHS jobs so that people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to contribute and benefit from public investment in our healthcare
  5. Ensuring the NHS and other employers in the system are inclusive modern model employers 
  6. Ensuring that service, financial and workforce planning are intertwined, so that every significant policy change has workforce implications thought through and tested. 

These principles are generic and there is an evidence gap concerning the extent to which there are specific workforce challenges in rural areas. It is this gap that this research project addresses.


This research is concerned with applying a rural lens to the workforce challenges facing the NHS in England. It has two key aims:

  1. to set out a research-based response to the six main principles set out in the NHS Workforce Strategy Consultation
  2. to distil good practice in rural workforce commissioning and provide suggestions as to how this can be applied across the NHS and in relation to adult social care – through the development of a toolkit.

The methodology utilised in addressing these objectives comprises:

  • Setting out a spatial framework for analysis, recognising different types of rural areas
  • Analysis of economic and labour market data
  • Identification of elements in the Workforce Strategy which are particularly pertinent to rural areas
  • An evidence review of the academic and grey literature relating to those elements
  • Primary research with stakeholders to draw out specific rural challenges and how they vary (or not) across rural areas
  • Testing and triangulation of research findings
  • Synthesis and reporting
  • Development of an initial ‘What Works’ guide, including in particular rural setting identifying what works well and practical steps that can be taken to address workforce needs in rural settings.

Research team

Publications and downloads

Rural Workforce Issues in Health and Care (October 2018), report produced by Anne Green and George Bramley, University of Birmingham, and Ivan Annibal and Jessica Sellick, Rose Regeneration

City-REDI and Rose Regeneration Present Research on Rural Workforce Issues at the Parliamentary Launch of the National Centre for Rural Health and Care,
City-REDI Blog - Oct 2018


As part of this research the team held consultations at the launch of the National Centre for Rural Health and Care in June 2018.
Return to the City-REDI Homepage Return to the People Theme Return to the Places Theme

Funder/client: Health Education England via United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust
Timescale: March 2018 to August 2018


Anne GreenProject lead: Anne Green
Tel: 0121 414 9666