‘NHS Workforce Plan Cannot Come Soon Enough’: BMA Responds to Budget
Responding to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Budget, Dr Emma Runswick, BMA council deputy chair, said:
“When patients are suffering record waits for care and the morale of overstretched doctors and colleagues is at rock bottom due to chronic staff shortages, Mr Hunt’s promised NHS workforce plan cannot come soon enough.
“As the Chancellor himself points out, he pledged this plan back in November. We need it now. It needs to be funded and it needs to be transparent in forecasting how many healthcare staff we need now and in the future, and crucially, outline how we will recruit and retain them.
“When it comes to retention, the pension reforms announced today will go a long way to keep senior doctors from retiring early1. We welcome the extension of free childcare, which will help doctors who are parents to return to work after having children with fewer worries about the financial implications. In turn we hope this will allow more doctors with childcare responsibilities, who are disproportionately women, to fulfil their potential in medicine.
“But to attract and keep staff we need to value them and pay them what they are worth. The Chancellor opened his speech by saying that ‘inflation destroys the value of hard-earned pay’. Which is exactly what has happened to doctors, with my junior colleagues having seen theirs slashed by more than a quarter in 15 years, leading them to take to picket lines this week. While he paid lip-service to working to ‘settle disputes’, there was no funding in today’s Budget that would convince us that the Government is serious about restoring junior doctors’ pay, and we urge ministers to engage meaningfully on this with us. And this needs to be supported by investment. The argument that paying healthcare staff properly will fuel inflation simply will not wash.
“Today’s Budget will have a mixed impact on people’s health. The extension of the energy support scheme will help ensure people can stay warm, and moves to help people get back to work with improved mental health and musculoskeletal services as well as improved occupational health support will, we hope, help people stay in work. However, the Government could have gone further at addressing the drivers of ill health and addressing public health funding cuts, which have been deepest in some of the country’s worst-off areas. Proposals to speed up medicines regulation will also need a closer look to ensure the UK’s high standards will be maintained.
“The health of our population is in the hands of doctors and colleagues working in hospitals, GP practices, public health services, universities, and more settings across the country. If we do not invest in them, we risk the country not only getting sicker – but poorer for it.”