Plans to address the ‘catastrophic impact’ of the pandemic on patients waiting for NHS treatment in England could be derailed by a lack of staff, according to a Health and Social Care Committee report.
The report notes the 93,000 vacancies for NHS positions in England, with its authors unconvinced that there are sufficient plans for recruitment and retention of staff. These concerns extend to the social care workforce, which has 105,000 current vacancies and a 38% turnover rate for nurses.
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‘This report delivers a damning verdict on the government's commitment to safe patient care and those trying to give it. The cross-party group not only highlight current shortages but warn that many more nurses are at risk of leaving too as they lose faith in the government's willingness to 'grip' the situation,’ said RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen.
‘Tens of thousands of nursing roles were unfilled in the NHS and social care even before the pandemic. To keep today's nursing staff and inspire a new generation, the government needs to match the rhetoric with solid investment. Ministers must take legal accountability for addressing this situation.’
The report found better workforce planning to be a central factor in recovery. However, the it notes that the Government resisted changes to the Health and Care Bill that would have required publication of an independent assessment of workforce numbers at least once every two years. Without this, it will remain impossible to know whether enough doctors, nurses or care staff are being trained.
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‘The NHS faces an unquantifiable challenge in tackling a backlog of cases caused by the pandemic, with 5.8 million patients waiting for planned care and estimates that the figure could double by 2025,’ said Health and Social Care Committee Chair Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP.
‘However, our Report finds that the Government’s recovery plans risk being thrown off course by an entirely predictable staffing crisis. The current wave of Omicron is exacerbating the problem, but we already had a serious staffing crisis, with a burnt-out workforce, 93,000 NHS vacancies and no sign of any plan to address this. Far from tackling the backlog, the NHS will be able to deliver little more than day to day firefighting unless the Government wakes up to the scale of the staffing crisis facing the NHS, and urgently develops a long-term plan to fix the issue.’