NHS facing “greatest workforce crisis” in its history

A COMMITTEE of MPs has concluded that the NHS is facing the greatest workforce crisis in its history, with persistent understaffing posing a serious risk to staff and patient safety.

A report by the Health and Social Care Committee highlights new research suggesting the NHS in England is short of 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives.

The report cites evidence on workforce projections suggesting that an extra 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. These conclusions come as hospital waiting lists have reached a record high of 6.6 million.

The committee points out that the number of full-time equivalent GPs fell by more than 700 over three years to March 2022, despite a pledge to deliver 6,000 more. The report also describes a situation where NHS pension arrangements “force senior doctors to reduce working hours” as a “national scandal” and calls for swift action to remedy this.

The report says pay is a crucial factor in recruitment and retention in social care, with Government analysis estimating that more than 17,000 jobs in care paid below the minimum wage.

Health and Social Care Committee Chair Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt said: "Persistent understaffing in the NHS poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety, a situation compounded by the absence of a long-term plan by the government to tackle it.

"We now face the greatest workforce crisis in history in the NHS and in social care with still no idea of the number of additional doctors, nurses and other professionals we actually need. NHS professionals know there is no silver bullet to solve this problem but we should at least be giving them comfort that a plan is in place. This must be a top priority for the new Prime Minister."

Commenting on the report, Professor Neil Mortensen, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: "With hospital waiting lists at a record high of 6.6 million, NHS staff are under huge pressure. Persistent vacancies leave many feeling disillusioned, overworked and at high risk of burnout. With mounting waiting lists, rising inflation and ever-increasing demands, the NHS cannot afford to lose experienced staff who are willing and able to work."

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