THE NHS STAFFING CRISIS: ‘A NATIONAL SCANDAL’ says House of Commons Health & Social Care Committee

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Healthworkers on the June 18th TUC demonstration to Parliament

THE HOUSE of Commons Health and Social Care Committee is publishing a report this morning which calls the NHS staffing crisis a ‘national scandal’.

The report on recruitment, training and retention describes it as ‘the greatest workforce crisis in history, compounded by the absence of a credible government strategy to tackle the situation’.

The British Medical Association (BMA) calls the report a ‘damning indictment’ of the Tory government’s failure to deal with workforce issues.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warns that current NHS understaffing poses ‘a serious risk to staff and patient safety’.

As our lead story on page 2 today exposes, five wards in Scotland’s largest hospital had just one registered nurse on duty each last Monday.

RCN Director for England, Patricia Marquis, said of the report: ‘The findings of the Committee show in the starkest of detail the workforce crisis across the whole of health and social care in England.

‘That persistent understaffing in all care settings poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety should shock ministers into action.

‘As ministers continue to make claims about the number of new nurses, evidence submitted to the Committee found a significant lack of transparency on workforce planning and in fact that 475,000 jobs will be needed in health and an extra 490,000 jobs in social care by the early part of the next decade just to keep up with patient need.

‘On pay, the Committee was very clear saying it is unacceptable that some NHS nurses are struggling to feed their families, pay their rent, and travel to work.

‘Their recommendation that nursing staff should be given a pay rise that takes account of the cost of living crisis should make government rethink the latest pay deal that follows a decade of real terms pay cuts that will force even more to leave the profession.’

Dr Emma Runswick, BMA council deputy chair, said: ‘This urgent and detailed report illustrates the workforce emergency facing our health and care services and the dire consequences this is having on staff and patients.

‘It is a damning indictment of a government that has completely failed to take any meaningful action on workforce issues, and has no plan going forward.

‘Despite obvious need, the government refuses to do the basic work of laying out how many staff we need to meet the health and care demands of the population, now or in the future.

‘This report now joins the BMA and more than 100 other expert organisations in calling for this.

‘The Committee lays bare the scale of workforce shortages – and failed promises from ministers – and recommends solutions that the BMA has long-proposed around both recruitment  and retention.

‘The government should drastically increase medical school and training places with full funding.

‘Bureaucratic barriers for our talented international colleagues seeking to practise here should be removed and support increased.

‘Alongside this we need support to keep existing doctors in the workforce, especially after the most harrowing and exhausting two years many will have ever experienced.’

Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA pensions committee chair, said: ‘The Health and Social Care Select Committee findings are correct – it is indeed a “national scandal” that senior doctors are being driven to reduce their hours or retire early, just when the NHS is facing the “biggest workforce crisis in its history”.

‘What is most scandalous is that this is a mess entirely the government’s own doing through its absurd and unfair pension taxation policy.’