Ministers could be forced to make NHS workforce plans public

‘No one on the frontline has the remotest idea if we are training enough people for the future’

Shaun Lintern
Health Correspondent
Monday 15 November 2021 17:49
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<p>Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt wants the government to make workforce plans public </p>

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt wants the government to make workforce plans public

Dozens of MPs and almost 50 health organisations have backed a bid by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt to force ministers to publish workforce plans for the NHS.

The Tory MP has tabled an amendment to the government’s Health and Care Bill in Parliament which would require the NHS to publish forecasts of what the NHS needed and whether it was training enough doctors and nurses every two years.

Mr Hunt, the longest serving health secretary, has acknowledged not enough has been done in the past on workforce planning and has criticised the back room deals by the Treasury that has stymied workforce planning in the health service for years.

The chairman of the health select committee believes forcing such plans to be published would help to ensure enough places for students to train to work in the NHS.

The amendment has been backed by 38 MPs, including half who are Conservative as well as eight select committee chairs.

A total of 11 medical Royal Colleges have also added their support as well the British Medical Association and charities including Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

Currently there is no public data on whether England is training enough healthcare workers to meet the expected future demand.

Health secretary Sajid Javid has admitted the DHSC has internal numbers but these are not available.

The Health Foundation has estimated an additional 4,000 doctors and 17,000 nurses will be required to clear the backlog of operations in the NHS which has just under 100,000 vacancies.

The Royal College of Physicians has warned of a 33 per cent increase in unfilled consultant posts across the UK since 2013.

Jeremy Hunt said: “More than two weeks after the budget, we still have no clarity on the funding settlement for training the doctors and nurses of the future which I am afraid looks like a classic example no priority being attached to long term workforce planning in Whitehall.

“Yet with shortages in every single medical specialty and lots of additional money going into the NHS it makes no sense to ignore the elephant in the room which is that there are not nearly enough doctors or nurses to do the work the government and the public wants.”

He added: “Even before the Covid backlog we were facing the pressures of an ageing population and yet the government sat on its own workforce projections so no one on the frontline has the remotest idea if we are training enough people for the future. It is time to put this right once and for all.”

New data from the Nursing and Midwifery Council has found that while the number of registered nurses in England has increased overall, the number of people leaving has hit the highest level since 2017.

The NMC register, which includes retired nurses and those no longer working in health, has grown to 744,929. The total also includes midwives and nursing associates.

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