FYFV Update workforce pledges ‘critical’ to fix staff shortages

The NHS will look to tackle serious problems with understaffing and high patient demand by training 15,000 GPs between 2015 and 2020 and increasing the number of nurses by up to 2,200 more per year in 2019, NHS England confirmed in its Five Year Forward View (FYFV) Update.

In the ambitious plans, NHS England set out how it would bring the UK’s medical workforce up in line with the European average by growing undergraduate medical school places by 25%, as well as promising to tackle pressures on junior doctors in training.

The well-documented difficulties faced by junior doctors were addressed in the plan, which stated: “Junior doctors are a crucial part of the NHS workforce, and the NHS needs to do a better job of engaging with the senior doctors of the future. HEE, NHS Improvement, NHS Employers and their partners are committing to tackle head-on non-contractual pressures confronting junior doctors.”

Junior doctors will now receive their proposed rota a minimum of eight weeks before they start new rotations in line with practice recommended by a number of doctors’ unions.

It is hoped that GP places will be expanded by tackling this pressure on junior doctors and ensuring that doctors targets are met by 2020.

Last month, the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) warned that a drop in GP numbers shown in NHS Digital figures represented a “huge blow” to NHS ambitions to grow the GP workforce.

Responding to the FYFV update, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said the plan represented promise and potential for general practice.

“It is good to see that NHS England remains committed to delivering the GP Forward View, announced last year, that promises £2.4bn extra a year for general practice, 5,000 more GPs and 5,000 more members of the practice team by 2020,” she argued.

“The college has hailed this as a lifeline for our service, after a consistent decline in funding over the last decade despite escalating patient demand.

“We heard disappointing figures on GP workforce earlier this week, but this makes the 5,000 target even more critical; our profession desperately needs these GPs if we are to continue delivering the care our patients need and deserve. We must all redouble our efforts to achieve this goal.”

The NHS will also be responding to problems with morale in the workforce by setting up a new GP Health Service to support doctors and staff suffering from mental health issues and addiction.

There were also measures brought in to deal with specific staff shortages. To tackle shortages in emergency medicine, HEE will run an expanded intake of the run-through ACCSEM course, and will add an extra year of 75 additional training posts.

In terms of nursing positions, the plan pledged to not only train new staff, but also cut down on costs by retraining registered nurses who are currently out of work.

There are currently 50,000 registered nurses not in work in the UK. Retraining a nurse costs only £2,000 and takes three to 12 months per nurse, compared to training someone new, which costs between £50-£70,000 and takes three years.

NHS England also announced a new fast-track ‘Nurse First’ programme that, similarly to Teach First, looks to provide financial support for graduates from other related disciplines to continue their education to being a fully qualified nurse.

Responding to this, Royal College of Nursing CEO Jane Davies said: “There is a critical shortage of nurses in the NHS and unsafe staffing levels put high quality patient care at risk.

“Measures to increase the number of registered nurses are very welcome and the Nurse First initiative is a positive way to attract talented graduates. Nursing is a hugely rewarding, complex and responsible profession.”

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