Moves at last on graduate employment

A 'talent pool' of graduate physiotherapists will be created to help tackle unemployment among newly qualified health professionals.

The move is part of an action plan for England drawn up by the government, employers and professional bodies, including the CSP. The 10 English strategic health authorities will be told to maintain contact with out-of-work, recently-graduated, healthcare professionals and provide a matching service with job opportunities, as part of the 29-point plan to slash graduate unemployment. Maximising Employment Opportunities for Newly-Qualified Healthcare Professionals in a Changing NHS, produced by the national Social Partnership Forum, sets out a raft of proposals to improve graduates' job prospects. It also sets in train three reviews that could have a significant effect on physiotherapists. NHS Employers, professional bodies and trade unions will be tasked with demonstrating how better use of allied health professionals can help achieve next year's NHS maximum 18-week wait target, and help shift NHS care from acute hospitals to the community. And the CSP will work directly with NHS Employers to develop the business case for increasing physiotherapy input in delivering occupational health services. NHS commissioning bodies will be presented with the findings. The feasibility of introducing a minimum employment guarantee for all new health graduates will be explored in one particular SHA area, the East of England, to inform national thinking in this area.  A recent report by the House of Commons health select committee suggested that the pros and cons of such an approach warranted further thinking. Lesley Mercer, director of employment relations and union services, represented the CSP on the social partnership working group tasked with drawing up the action plan. She stressed that the plan was not a panacea for resolving graduate unemployment at a stroke.  But she described it as a first real attempt to work collectively and strategically across an SHA area to share out fairly the responsibility of ensuring that new qualifiers were able to secure their all-important first job in health care. SHAs were being asked to involve employers from the voluntary and independent sectors in the discussions, as well as NHS employers. Ms Mercer added: 'This has to be better than NHS trusts taking decisions on whether to employ new graduates in isolation from what other health employers in the area are planning, or indeed the numbers of new graduates likely to be seeking work.' Addressing the fears that boosting employment for new graduates could lead to job cuts among more senior staff, Ms Mercer said all the unions had been adamant during the discussions that this must not happen.  As a result, the preface to the action plan stresses that the solutions to graduate unemployment should not be based on increasing pressure among existing staff. Welcoming the publication of the action plan, CSP head of public affairs Gary Robjent  said the Society's work behind the scenes had achieved tangible results in the battle to cut graduate unemployment among physiotherapists. 'The plan is a real demonstration of what can be achieved through lobbying leading to dialogue with all stakeholders,' he said. 'The test now will be in how the plan is implemented'. FURTHER INFORMATION To see a copy of the full action plan, go to the CSP website at The CSP will also be disseminating advice direct to existing unemployed members and all 2007 graduates about how to linkin with the talent pools being set up in each SHA area Main action points• SHAs to collect accurate data on existing and newly qualifying graduates seeking work in England
  • SHAs to work with all health employers in their area to plan how to maximise employment opportunities for new graduates and to match vacancies to unemployed graduates
  • employers to eliminate obstacles to the employment of new qualifiers, such as requiring previous experience for band 5 jobs, and actively to consider ring-fencing jobs for newly-qualified staff
  • employers to stop or cut back heavily on use of agency staff
  • employers to make use of newly qualified staff through flexible internal pools
  • trusts to be aware of the effects of 'vacancy control strategies' on graduate employment, and involve clinical managers when forecasting workforce numbers
  • SHAs, higher education institutions and employers to work together to run 'keep in touch' schemes for unemployed graduates
  • possible scheme to allow newly qualified health professionals to gain experience abroad
Graham Clews

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