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Government misses opportunity to protect patient care

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There is 'widespread disappointment and disbelief' There is 'widespread disappointment and disbelief' after the Government disregards amendments to the Health and Care Bill, despite broad support from healthcare unions

There is 'widespread disappointment and disbelief' after the Government disregards amendments to the Health and Care Bill, despite broad support from healthcare unions.

Among the key amendments, the RCN supported embedding accountability for workforce planning and supply with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to ensure that severe staff shortages – a patient safety issue – are resolved and addressed sustainably. This is important to ensure that such a significant shortage never develops again in the future.

The RCN, in coalition with over 50 organisations, also supported an amendment tabled by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt that would require the Secretary of State to carry out and publish an assessment of current workforce as well as current and future workforce requirements in health and social care. This would ensure that the gap is clear and transparent.

‘The amendments we backed were designed to ensure health and care services have the workforce they need to deliver safe high-quality services now and in the future. Thousands of nursing staff and supporters contacted their MPs this week, asking them to stand up for safe staffing and back changes to this bill,’ said Patricia Marquis, RCN England Director.

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‘The current approach to workforce planning is haphazard and leads to shortages – running counter to all ambitions to improve patient safety. For the remainder of its time in parliament, we and others will continue to push for amendments to the bill. The nursing profession will continue to speak out on the need for a sustainable and accountable workforce plan and highlight the impact of the current level of vacancies.’

This follows 4,423 emails sent to MPs by members and the public encouraging them to back changes to the new legislation to introduce accountability for the health and care workforce in England. The action reached 525 of the 534 Westminster constituencies in England, meaning 98% of MPs were contacted.

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‘Years of poor planning and short-term thinking has left health and care services struggling to cope with chronic staff shortages. The amendment would have addressed this by encouraging a more strategic, long-term approach based on the regular publication of future workforce projections,’ said Richard Murray, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund.

‘Despite pledges, promises and manifesto commitments there is still no plan to address workforce shortages, and there is no certainty about the budgets for staff education and training. The health and care workforce crisis continues to be a blind spot for the government.’

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