NHS risking patient safety due to vacancies and illness say MPs

NHS doctors and nurses - Image Photoroyalty / Shutterstock.com

The NHS is risking patient safety according to a new report from the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee.

The report made public on Monday, July 25 highlights the massive number of vacancies in health care and the astronomical number of days being lost to illness and absenteeism.

According to the report the NHS is in crisis with a shortage of more than 12,000 doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives.

With millions of days being lost to absenteeism, MPs can only see the situation worsening saying the NHS has “no credible plan” for resolving the issue of lost hours or staff shortages.

Predictions suggest that as many as 475,000 extra staff will be needed in the NHS by the start of the next decade, with as many if not more needed in social care. 

With doctors and midwives leaving the profession the report criticises the government saying: “In the face of this, the government has shown a marked reluctance to act decisively.

“The workforce plan promised in the spring has not yet been published and will be a ‘framework’ with no numbers, which we are told could potentially follow in yet another report later this year.”

The report acknowledges that some progress had been made in meeting the Conservative Party manifesto, it would miss its target of recruiting 50,000 nurses and 6,000 GPs. In fact, the number of GPs according to the report had fallen by 700 over the last three years.

The report continues by saying: “But most depressing for many on the frontline is the absence of any credible strategy to address it.”

Staff shortages and the failure to address the problem at a time when the usage of the system is high, has resulted in many staff being ill, with anxiety, stress, and depression a significant contributor to staff absences.

“The result is that many in an exhausted workforce are considering leaving – and if they do, pressure will increase still further on their colleagues.”

Saying that the: “The persistent understaffing of the NHS now poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety, both for routine and emergency care,” MPs added that simple things such as hot food and drinks during shifts, flexible working and parking were making the situation worse.

The report concludes by saying that the government’s refusal to make workforce planning data public: “Means that the basic question which every health and care worker is asking: are we training enough staff to meet the patient need will remain unanswered”.

Health and Social Care Committee Chair and Tory MP Jeremy Hunt said the country was facing “the greatest workforce crisis in history in the NHS and in social care.

“NHS professionals know there is no silver bullet to solve this problem, but we should at least be giving them comfort that a plan is in place. This must be a top priority for the new prime minister.”

Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, confirmed to Sky News that there are over 50,000 vacancies and that: “An exhausted workforce, presents one of the greatest challenges to the recovery of the economy and the return of safe, high-quality health services for all.”

He added that the government’s reluctance to deal with the situation left NHS managers “beyond worried” adding it posed a “serious risk to both staff and patient safety.”

A Department of Health and Social Care statement insisted that the government is growing the NHS workforce claiming that there are 4,000 more doctors and 9,600 more nurses than in 2021 and 1,400 more GPs than in March 2019.

That statement also said a £95m recruitment drive was in place for maternity services and that £500m was being provided to “develop our valued social care workforce, including through training opportunities and new career pathways.”

The statement goes on to say that a long-term workforce plan to recruit and support NHS staff had been commissioned, but Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing’s Director for England, said it was: “Unacceptable that some NHS nurses are struggling to feed their families, pay their rent, and travel to work”.

She said the report “should shock ministers into action.”

For some time now there has been concern that the NHS is not coping with the growth in patient numbers and in working through the backlog following the pandemic. BREXIT had not made the situation any easier for the organisation, which had been able to fill vacancies by recruiting in Europe but that source had all but dried up according to some reports.

Whether either of the two final candidates to be the Conservative Party leader and therefore the prime minister, remains to be seen NHS risking patient safety continues to be a concern to those within the organisation.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at editorial@euroweeklynews.com.