A large number of NHS job vacancies are presenting a severe threat to patients, a report by a group of prominent MPs states.
The initial official report published by NHS suggested that NHS has vacancies for 38,972 nurses, which highlights an alarming vacancy rate of 10.0% as of March 31, 2022. The report also suggested that there are 8.016 vacancies for doctors. However, the report by MPs found that NHS is now short of more than 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors. They termed this situation as ‘the worst workforce crisis’ in the history of the NHS.
The cross-party Health and Social Care Committee criticized the government for inadequate workforce planning.” Workforce planning was considered an unaddressed afterthought by Government. The Government has failed to provide adequate funding and resources to support workforce planning.”, claims their report.
Risk To Both Staff And Patient Safety
The unfilled NHS job vacancies are posing a serious threat to the safety of both staff and patients. This issue is particularly distressing in maternity services. The report stated that the Government last year accepted their recommendation to add 2000 more midwives to the NHS. However, the NHS has failed miserably to retain its existing workforce. The NHS lost 552 midwives between March 2021 and March 2022.
More than four million patients are on the waiting list in England currently. The waiting time is as long as two years for some patients. This had led to a lot of cases turning severe due to the long wait. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this number would probably rise in the future.
The Root Cause Of The Crisis
The official NHS report blamed the shortage of workforce on the COVID-19 pandemic. They said,” the pandemic caused considerable disruption to recruitment activity within the NHS.”. But, the MPs’ report claimed that the understaffing predated the pandemic.
Low pay, lack of recognition for the work that they do, and poor working conditions were identified as some of the primary issues facing the social care workforce. “Nearly half (48.8%) of staff state was unwell due to work-related stress.” .according to the 2021 NHS staff survey. The current staff is still recovering from the over-exhaustion and tension they faced during the pandemic.
The rate of bullying, harassment, and abuse in NHS is a major concern for the well-being of the staff. 1 in every 4 NHS staff has experienced bullying in the preceding 12 months. Moreover, NHS staff is facing the problem of low pay and poor pension arrangements. Doctors and nurses are opting to neglect NHS jobs due to this. Low funding and lack of planning structure by the Government can be termed as the main cause of the crisis.
What Lies Ahead
Solving the workforce crisis will be the main aim of the upcoming UK Prime Minister. It has, therefore, emerged as a key issue of contention between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, the candidates for the Prime Minister position.
Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said,” We are growing the health and social care workforce, with over 4,000 more doctors and 9,600 more nurses compared to last year, and over 1,400 more doctors in general practice compared to March 2019. DHSC is committed to delivering 50,000 more nurses by the end of this parliament.” The DHSC also recommended the Government publish a ten-year plan for social care to formulate a long-term process for taking the NHS job crisis.