Chris Hopson, chief executive for NHS Providers which represents all NHS trusts, has said quality of care is now being compromised and that the Treasury’s silence on workforce funding means the NHS cannot maximise taxpayers’ money.
He told the Commons Health Committee: “I just want to address the Treasury directly. The Treasury is forever saying we need to maximise taxpayer money; the truth is we are spending billions of pounds of money we do not need to spend on agency and locum staff instead of full-time staff that we desperately need.
“We’ve reached an absurd and extraordinary position where the NHS is saying we need this long-term workforce plan to maximise tax payer value for money but the treasury is stopping us from doing so that cannot make sense.”
His words come as the House of Lords is due to debate this week an amendment to the Health and Care Bill which was previously rejected by the government.
The amendment, proposed by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, would require the NHS to publish workforce requirements every few years.
Speaking at the Commons Health Committee Professor Dame Helen Lampard Stokes, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, urged the Lords to back the amendment.
She said the government is not prepared to be honest about what is required in terms of workforce numbers, and that NHS staff will be “bewildered” over why there hasn’t been a long-term plan.
Although the government has promised to set out a future “framework” for NHS staffing needs, it has failed to provide any definitive figures or long-term investment.
Mr Hopson told the committee the NHS had reached the point where workforce shortages are now impacting the quality of care, and that the care backlog built up during the pandemic cannot be recovered as it stands because of staff shortages.
“We simply can’t run the NHS effectively or efficiently without a long-term plan”, he said.
On Tuesday NHS England chief Amanda Pritchard announced a new drive to recruit thousands of people as “reservists” to assist the NHS in tackling the backlog.
The NHS is looking to increase recruitment of people who are interested in a career in the service, or former staff who might want to return to work into agency-like roles.
Speaking at the annual Nuffield Trust health summit, Ms Pritchard said: “Reservists will help us in our time of need but also help those who want a rewarding career in the health service – the roles are flexible and can fit around your lifestyle.
“The challenges for the NHS are far from over, and as we now pull out all the stops to recover services, we once again need the public’s support.”
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