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Funding boost for NHS welcome but Spending Review does not deliver on workforce pledges

28 October 2021

Responding to the announcement by the Chancellor outlining the Government’s Spending Review, Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“The Spending Review announced by the Chancellor provides a welcome boost in funding to the NHS. The £5.9 billion extra capital to tackle the elective care backlog is especially crucial at this time. Opening more beds is vital and in particular the £1.5 billion aimed at increasing capacity and opening surgical hubs is welcome. But the government have failed on the most pressing issue facing the NHS, workforce. We know the health and care service has widespread workforce shortages across all departments, specialties, and grades – a shortage of 115,000 according to the Health Foundation. Without addressing the workforce crisis quite simply there will not be enough doctors and nurses to staff the beds or surgical hubs that are opened.

“Urgent and Emergency care is on the edge of a crisis. Ambulance handover delays, long stays and dangerous crowding are becoming increasingly frequent – these appalling practices increase the risk of death of patients in the severest condition. Emergency Medicine staff are struggling to see a co-ordinated vision for how we come through these challenging times. Staff are asking how they will be able to continue to deliver care through this critical period. With no clear strategy or workforce plan, right now the long-term vision is limited.

“In Emergency Medicine (EM) we know there are shortages of between 2,000 and 2,500 EM consultants, along with equally important EM nurses, SAS doctors, allied health professionals and other core staff. We also know that many staff in Emergency Medicine are reconsidering their careers and may leave the profession altogether, it is likely that this is not unique to Emergency Medicine. Retention of existing staff is just as important as recruitment of new staff.

In a survey of 1,000 adults in Great Britain, Ipsos Mori found that 56% of respondents stated the biggest problem facing the healthcare system in Great Britain is ‘not enough staff’. No doubt these workforce shortages are linked to long waiting times and access to treatment, which 52% of respondents stated is the second biggest problem facing the British healthcare system. In the same vein, 83% agreed that the British healthcare system is overstretched, the highest figure of all 30 countries surveyed and nearly 30% higher than the Global country average (56%). This is deeply concerning, but clearly the public have an understanding of the core problems facing the NHS. Now the government must follow suit.

In their manifesto and in this Spending Review this Government have made workforce promises to the NHS: 50,000 more nurses; 6,000 more GPs. But we have yet to see the detail on the assurances that the government will ‘train and employ tens of thousands more NHS professionals here in the UK’ and ‘will keep building a bigger, better trained NHS workforce’. The future of the health and care service depends on workforce. A failure to recruit or retain staff is a failure of the government to the NHS and a failure that comes at the cost of patient health and care. NHS staff understand this, the public understand this, now the government must understand this and fulfil its pledges to the NHS and produce and fund a long-term workforce plan.”


Notes to Editor

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