Frontline NHS

Open letter to PM calls for quick action on NHS staffing undersupply

Six NHS organisations have come together in an open letter to the Prime Minister, asking the Government to take quick action to address the chronic undersupply of NHS staff.

Those involved include the NHS Confederation, NHS Providers, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges, and Unison. They warned that if NHS staff leave, a circle will be created where ‘staff vacancies are the greatest threat to the retention of NHS staff’.

The representative bodies say the extra funding is needed to ensure staff can deliver and do more for patients as well as covering the additional workforce costs created by the fall-out from Covid-19, including the vaccine rollout and the growing demand for support and treatment for patients with long Covid. 

The letter asks the Government to be candid about how much it will cost to educate and train more staff, how long this will take and whether new staff will be recruited from the UK or abroad.

Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers said: “We must see a fully costed and funded national workforce plan, so we stop asking NHS frontline staff to bear an unsustainable workload shift after shift, week after week.

“The plan can’t just cover existing workforce gaps. It must set out the level of staffing needed to make the NHS a great place to work. Currently, the NHS cannot consistently give its staff a reasonable workload and the work life balance they need and deserve. That has to change.”

They also called on the Government to clearly outline the workforce requirements for delivering the NHS Long Term Plan across different parts of the country, as well as set out the areas of ‘greatest risk and greatest need’ across the NHS workforce, including more transparency on which staff groups need to be supported.

They say additional investment in workforce capacity is imperative to tackle the huge care backlog, as well as enabling the NHS to deliver on its commitments to patients as set out in the NHS Long Term Plan. 

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said: “Improved clarity on workforce planning now would make a huge difference to the way healthcare systems and the staff within them are able to operate in future. This can only be a good thing for patients and the quality of care provided to them in the longer term, and I have no doubt that’s why so many organisations have united in calling for this.”

BMA Council Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “The success of our fight against this deadly virus has been largely down to the enormous dedication of NHS staff who have worked tirelessly, often to their own detriment, to care for unprecedented levels of ill patients and save lives.

 “We already started this pandemic on the backfoot with severe staffing shortages which impacted our ability to respond to the pandemic. With a recent BMA survey finding that almost a fifth of doctors were considering leaving the NHS for another career, the future of the NHS workforce is very uncertain. There is simply not enough staff and those staff who have been working over the past year are exhausted and in desperate need of some respite.

“With the NHS facing the largest ever backlog of care and the demands of Covid still very much a day to day to reality on the ground, the Prime Minster must listen to the concerns outlined in this letter and come up with a tangible plan.”

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