Government ‘Nowhere Close’ to Getting a Grip on the NHS Workforce Crisis, says BMA

Responding to the latest set of NHS vacancies data which shows that as of September 2022, 133,446 posts in secondary care in England are vacant, Dr Latifa Patel, BMA representative body chair, said:

“The persistent quarterly increase in unfilled NHS secondary care posts – which now stand at the highest number since June 2018 when the dataset began – is a clear sign that the Government is nowhere close to getting a grip on the NHS workforce crisis.

“For years staff and patients have suffered the consequences of poor workforce planning. Persistent staffing shortages have led to punishing workloads for staff and growing waiting lists for patients, many of whom are facing agonising waits to get the care they need. The resulting rise in vacancies then force remaining doctors to stretch themselves even more thinly, further fuelling the cycle of burnout and poor retention.

“When the NHS has been dealing with staffing shortages for as long as it has, there’s a danger that high vacancies come to be seen as inevitable and the norm. They are not inevitable, they mustn’t be accepted and they pose serious risks to patient safety and staff wellbeing. It’s well within the Government’s power to address them by paying staff fairly, improving retention and investing in proper workforce planning.

“The BMA has been at the forefront of campaigning for published workforce modelling, so the Chancellor’s recent announcement of a workforce plan to include independently-verified modelling covering the next 15 years, is an encouraging step. However, for the plan to be successful in its aims, pay, pensions, working conditions and other drivers of attrition cannot be ignored. We will continue to see a haemorrhage of expert staff if no concrete action is taken to improve recruitment and retention.”