The NHS Won’t Survive Without Immediate Steps to Bolster Workforce, BMA Warns

Responding to the Government’s Delivery plan for recovering urgent and emergency care services, Professor Phil Banfield, chair of BMA council, said:

“The NHS cannot afford to wait two years for the fraction of help that the Government has proposed in this plan today. If the NHS has any chance of surviving that long, then we need to see immediate funding as well as steps taken to retain and boost our workforce.

“People aren’t leaving the NHS solely because they struggle to work flexibly, as this plan suggests. They’re leaving because they aren’t paid fairly, are subject to punitive pension taxation, and don’t feel valued. It’s therefore laughable that with 133,446 vacancies across the NHS, the Government still hasn’t addressed the workforce crisis. They may be able to source more ambulances, but who is going to staff them?
“The only mention of active recruitment is in relation to NHS 111 – and that comes from recruiting healthcare workers from other, already severely understaffed parts of the health service. Moving existing staff and finances around is not the way to fix this.

“The irony of looking at new ways of delivering care in the community is not lost on hardworking GPs who have offered to sit down to negotiate delivery of better services. Virtual wards, for example, are an attempt to free-up capacity in hospitals, but these patients still need monitoring, which requires someone to do this. It’s the same problem, just in a different place. Without a dedicated workforce and significant resource for this, now, it’ll likely fall to already-overworked GPs and their teams to pick up the workload, pushing up waiting times in general practice and jeopardising patient safety even further. As things stand, there’s no guarantee ambulances will be able to reach patients if their conditions deteriorate, and we urgently need to see capacity improved in social care. Doctors are repeatedly looking to innovate, but must be facilitated and funded to do so.

“Today’s plan shows that the Government still doesn’t understand the health and care workforce crisis. The BMA does, and will be publishing its own emergency plan in the coming days, which puts valuing healthcare workers front and centre, with immediate solutions like addressing pay restoration and punitive pension taxation. Only then can we retain and attract the workforce we need to deliver the care our patients deserve.”