Impact of COVID19 on health and care interim market

The influenza virus or a coronavirus has been a predominant cause of pandemics over the 20th and 21stcenturies.

Name Period Type/pre-human host Death Toll
Spanish Flu 1918-1919 H1N1 virus / Pigs 40-50M
Asian Flu 1957-1958 H2N2 virus 1.1M
Hong Kong Flu 1968-1970 H3N2 virus 1M
HIV/AIDS 1981-present Virus / Chimpanzees 25-35M
Swine Flu 2009-2010 H1N1 virus / Pigs 200,000
SARS 2002-2003 Coronavirus / Bats, Civets 770
Ebola 2014-2016 Ebolavirus / Wild animals 11,000
MERS 2015-Present Coronavirus / Bats, camels 850
COVID-19 2019-Present Coronavirus – Unknown (possibly pangolins) 732K (Johns Hopkins University estimate as of 8:35 am PT, 10 August 2020)

The hospitalisation rate and the containment measures required, define the economic impact of any pandemic. In that, COVID19 is having a severe effect on the world’s economy. The international monetary fund (IMF) is predicting a 3% shrinking of the global economy this year. At the time of writing, the UK has officially entered the deepest recession on records, with UK GDP in 2020 expected to shrink by 9%, overall.

COVID19 jobs retention scheme in the UK has helped protect 7.5 million workers and almost a million businesses. However, they (24% of the UK workforce) will be at risk by 31 October 2020, when the programme comes to an end. The risks are highly skewed, though: people and places with the lowest incomes are the most vulnerable to job loss. Nearly 50 per cent of all the jobs at risk are in occupations earning less than £10 per hour. (The median hourly pay in 2019 was £13.30).

Changes in the sector

The success

The health and care sector in the UK has dealt with the pandemic admiringly well. The quick removal of traditional obstacles like information governance has allowed organisations to work more collaboratively and focus on delivery, resulting in a multitude of innovations and transformation, achieved at breakneck speed. Use of digital technology in primary care is an example of one such change where rapid digital transformation in access means that much of primary care digital targets in NHS Long Term Plan have already been met. Crucially, people are more accepting of these changes in the current climate; however, concerns regarding the lack of public consultations have started to emerge.

The inevitable backlogs

The success so far has been achieved by prioritising COVID19 and focusing on shielding vulnerable individuals, which has inadvertently caused backlogs in several areas, such as management of long-term conditions, elective procedures, and continuing healthcare assessments, to name a few.

The significant on-going changes

Primary care is undergoing one of the most significant changes in the history with the development of primary care networks and the leniencies awarded to the acute sector by removing control totals and activity targets during the pandemic are being re-introduced under a new system. Changes recommended in the review of NHS access standards (interim report), would require significant resources to implement alongside NHS long term Plan requirements, on-going CCG mergers and development of integrated care systems – dramatically changing the provider and commissioning landscape. All this in the context of expected future waves of COVID19, winter pressures and ever limiting resources.

Impact of COVID19 on Interim market

Interims and contractors overall have been hit hard, with average contractor suffering almost 50% of downtime. It is particularly true in the health and care sector where projects deemed non-critical have been (rightly) put on hold to focus on shielding the most vulnerable and ensuring capacity in the acute sector. This focus allowed health and care organisations to enhance matrix governance structures and introduce agile working promptly while deploying staff flexibly to provide crucial support for critical programmes/projects. Individuals were pushed beyond their natural expertise, and credit must go to them (alongside front-line staff), who worked all hours to ensure back-office functions continue as usual, and front-line colleagues are fully supported.

With a focus on COVID19 activities, many interims and contractors have seen their contracts either cut short or not renewed. Interims who were already looking for work are finding it difficult to get new roles in an increasingly saturated market, where flexible working has created a much bigger talent pool for employers.

Furthermore, on-going CCG mergers and development of integrated care systems could potentially create recruitment freezes in the coming months to allow for restructuring and reshuffling of staff.

The demand for interims, therefore, would be lower in the short term, even after taking account of usual seasonal variations. However, as we move towards the resumption of everyday activities and implementation of new requirements, interim demand could gradually increase, but would it be the same in a post COVID19 world?

Post COVID19 skills

COVID19 has had an impact on the way we think and work. Flexible working, previously reserved for big private companies, has become an integral element of the NHS people plan for 2020/21 – action for us all. Use of digital technology has skyrocketed, enabling employers and candidates to reach new markets beyond their usual demographics. Where some are appreciating the newfound work/life balance, others are keen to get back to the formal structure of daily routine and social interaction.

It raises the question of delivery without daily engagement. Experienced interims and contractors who are self-starters, delivery-focused, comfortable with the use of technology and have excellent time management skills will no doubt excel as employers’ focus moves from day to day management to delivery and outcomes. Research, report writing, qualitative and quantitative analysis and modelling are some of the other skills which will come to the fore. The focus on delivery and outcomes could potentially reduce the engagement time for candidates, but it also provides an opportunity for highly skilled candidates to make an impact.


The demand for interims and contractors has always fluctuated between high and low; however, the impacts of COVID19 might include a change in the way employers engage with the interim market, and candidates might have to acquire new skills or brush off old ones. Either way, the dynamics of the interim market might have changed forever.

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Author Rehan

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