WHAT IS HORIZON SCANNING AND WHY IS IT USEFUL?
Horizon scanning is defined as ‘a systematic examination of information to identify potential threats, risks, emerging issues and opportunities’ (House of Commons, 2014).
In health workforce planning and forecasting horizon scanning is used to explore and describe the factors and forces, and their inter-relationships, driving future changes in workforce systems.
HOW CAN HORIZON SCANNING HELP WORKFORCE PLANNING?
Horizon scanning is a technique which is used to explore potential future developments and better anticipate risks. It involves identifying people with knowledge and expertise in specific areas, asking them to consider factors and forces driving change to a future point in time and synthesizing the findings into relevant reports and actions.
For the Joint Action on Health Workforce Planning and Forecasting (JA HWF) horizon scanning has been used to increase our collective knowledge of the dynamics surrounding health workforce systems.
The horizon scanning conducted is described in the report Future skills and competences of the health workforce in Europe. The aim of this report, and the associated briefing reports, is to describe the factors and forces which may drive changes in the skills and competences required from health workforces over the next 20 years; and to consider the implications of these changes.
This assists policy makers and horizon scanning practitioners to best understand where we may need to act to improve our collective preparedness in light of these challenges.
Examples of key driving forces in Europe we have researched as part of this work are shown below:
HOW WILL THESE DRIVERS IMPACT THE WORKFORCE AND SKILLS?
To see how these driving forces are causing changes to skills and competence visit the Future skills page and download the report.
HOW WAS HORIZON SCANNING USED IN THE JOINT ACTION?
Horizon scanning for the Joint Action on Health Workforce Planning and Forecasting was conducted by a Work Package 6 (WP6) network consisting of WP6 partners led by the Centre for Workforce Intelligence, in collaboration with the UK Department of Health.
Working with Network, the UK team and partners used this technique to perform a horizon scan out to 2035 for drivers of change that will affect the skills and competences of the future health workforce in the EU.
Information was collected with reference to the workforces which are in scope of the Joint Action. Those workforces are: dentists, doctors, midwives, nurses and pharmacists. The data collection and analysis to produce the research has followed five overall stages, as shown in the figure below.
Appropriately for an investigation of a complex and dynamic system, these stages are iterative rather than strictly linear (as implied in the diagram) and reflect a responsive process which has involved regular checks with the WP6 network and the integration of reviews of documents and literature into the interpretation and analysis at all stages (Bradley et al, 2015; Davis, 2007).
Horizon scanning workflow overview
Source: Future skills and competences of the health workforce in Europe.
6 SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO BEGIN TO APPLY FUTURE-ORIENTED METHODS IN WORKFORCE PLANNING
- Consider the examples of methods in use when we surveyed member states in 2013.
- Look at the example of how horizon scanning and the Delphi method has been applied for the first time in Belgium.
- Consider how the methods used in the Future skills report can be applied in your own context.
- Get in touch with the WP6 team who can help advise via the European Network of Experts.
- Develop the focal question you want to answer and investigate.
- Use the range of templates on the future skills page and expert guidance from the WP6 team to structure your investigation.