A report from the Health and Social Care Committee calls for urgent action on NHS staffing.
The Government needs to urgently wake up to the scale of the staffing crisis in the NHS to aid Covid recovery and address the huge health backlog, according to a report from the Health and Social Care Committee.
The report on clearing the backlog caused by the pandemic finds that the elective recovery plans are threatened by pressure on emergency care with a record number of 999 calls and waiting times in emergency departments at record levels. It concludes that tackling the wider backlog caused by the pandemic is a major and ‘unquantifiable’ challenge and calls for a broad national health and care recovery plan to include mental health, primary care, community care, and social care as well as emergency care.
At the centre of this is better workforce planning, says the report. It criticises the Government for resisting 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 it, says the report, “it will remain impossible to know whether enough doctors, nurses or care staff are being trained”.
Jeremy Hunt, former Health Secretary and chair of the Health and Social Care Committee Chair, says: “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.
“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.”