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Nurse shortages: lack of 10-year staffing plan is ‘ridiculous’, says Jeremy Hunt

Former health secretary suggests way to ‘give the workforce confidence’ in the future

Former health secretary suggests way to give the workforce confidence in the future

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said it is ridiculous that the NHS still does not have a long-term plan to ensure sufficient numbers of nurses and doctors.

In an interview with the British Medical Journal , Conservative MP Mr Hunt admitted more should have been done to tackle staffing shortages, which have been thrown into sharp relief by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Former health secretary suggests way to ‘give the workforce confidence’ in the future

Jeremy Hunt. Picture: Terence Philips

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said it is ‘ridiculous’ that the NHS still does not have a long-term plan to ensure sufficient numbers of nurses and doctors.

In an interview with the British Medical Journal, Conservative MP Mr Hunt admitted more should have been done to tackle staffing shortages, which have been thrown into sharp relief by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest NHS data shows there are 36,655 nursing vacancies in England alone.

Mr Hunt says ‘10-year workforce plan’ is needed

Mr Hunt highlighted the need for a long-term plan for recruiting and training nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers.

‘We’re in the rather ridiculous situation that three years after the NHS 10-year plan was announced [the NHS Long Term Plan], we still don’t have the 10-year workforce plan,’ he said.

The NHS Long Term Plan was supposed to be supported by a long-term NHS People Plan, but so far only an interim version has been published.

Annual data on workforce requirements is suggested as a solution

Mr Hunt said now was the time to ‘give the workforce the confidence that there is a long-term plan in place to deal with the rota gaps, pressures and staff shortages’.

He suggested that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and NHS England should work together to publish annual figures on future workforce requirements for the NHS.

College head highlights the ‘fragility of the nursing workforce’

Dame Donna Kinnair

RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair agreed there was a need for a long-term plan to address the chronic shortage of nursing staff.

‘Successive health secretaries have ducked this issue but the pandemic means the fragility of the nursing workforce is now an inescapable reality,’ she said.

Government response cites census and NHS People Plan for 2020-21

In response to Mr Hunt’s call for annual workforce data, an ONS spokesperson said that next month’s census in England and Wales would be ‘essential in helping major service providers such as the NHS to predict future needs’.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care responded to Mr Hunt’s suggestion by referring to the NHS People Plan for 2020-21.

They added: ‘The government is committed to growing the NHS workforce, and the latest NHS People Plan sets out a recruitment, retention and support package to help us do this.’

They also said the government is on track to meet the target of 50,000 more nurses in the NHS in England by 2024 (the end of the current parliament).


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