THE shortage of NHS staff in England has reached the point where patients are being warned that they will have to get used to seeing pharmacists or physiotherapists instead of GPs because the NHS will never be in a position to recruit and train enough family doctors or nurses to cover the chronic staff shortages throughout the NHS.
This is the shocking conclusion of a report ‘Closing the Gap’ by the three leading health service think tanks – The King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation – which predicts that in the next five years nurse shortages will double and the gap in the number of GPs required will nearly treble.
At present it is calculated that 30,000 extra nurses are needed and almost 3,000 GPs.
Current trends in population growth and an increase in the age profile of the population mean that to sustain an NHS as a functioning health service to meet patients’ needs would require an extra 70,000 nurses and more than 7,000 GPs in five years.
In ten years this would rise to 100,000 extra nurses and 11,000 more GPs.
Co-author of the report Anita Charlesworth said: ‘The workforce is the make-or-break issue for the health service. Unless staffing shortages are substantially reduced, the recent NHS Long Term Plan can only be a wish list.’
The number of GPs in England has fallen by more than 1,000 since 2015 with the Tories merely saying that it was ‘committed’ to expanding the workforce by 5,000 in 2020.
It became clear what this Tory commitment meant when in January the government issued a new contract to recruit 20,000 physiotherapists, pharmacists and other support staff to take over millions of GP appointments.
Medical assistants, science graduates with a mere two years training, will be allowed to examine patients in a cost-cutting scheme to do away with GP services.
The chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners voiced their unease saying: ‘We are extremely grateful to the hard work, skill and dedication of the members of the wider practice team. But they are not GPs and must never be seen as direct substitutes or used to “fill the gaps” long-term where numbers of GPs are insufficient.’
On the chronic shortage of nurses, the report highlighted the Tory policy of scrapping bursaries, forcing student nurses to pay tuition fees, as having a negative effect on the number of nurses in training and called for the introduction of a £5,200 annual grant instead.
The acting Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Donna Kinnair, said: ‘The staggering numbers in this report should cause alarm in Whitehall and focus the minds of Ministers on the cash they must put on the table to close the gaps.’
The truth is that the only focus Tory ministers have regarding the NHS is how to starve it of the funds to provide every person with a GP and with a hospital bed when needed.
100,000 NHS beds have been cut while hospitals and A&E departments closed down or amalgamated by a Tory government focused exclusively on destroying the NHS as a public free-at-the-point-of-need service and setting it up for complete privatisation.
The massive staff shortages facing hospital services have led to a bonanza for the private companies as the NHS is forced to spend a fortune on agency staff to act as cover while full-time staff are placed under intolerable strain by atrocious working conditions and scandalously low pay.
Years of Tory austerity cuts in funding along with wage freezes and closures have led to the make-or-break crisis facing the NHS.
With a minority Tory government in a state of complete collapse, the conditions are ripe for the working class to take decisive action to defend the NHS from complete annihilation by demanding that the TUC call a general strike to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers government that will expropriate the drug companies who leech billions off the NHS along with the banks as part of a planned socialist economy.
A workers government will ensure a properly funded NHS that will provide for the health needs of all.