NHS Workforce: Diagnosis

  • 08 September 2017
  • Posted in: Healthcare

When Minister of Health Aneurin Bevan visited 13-year-old Sylvia Diggory, the first ever NHS patient, at Park Hospital in Manchester on July 5th, 1948, the young girl recalled:

“Mr. Bevan asked me if I understood the significance of the occasion and told me that it was a milestone in history – the most civilised step any country had ever taken.”

The National Health Service was born from the ideal that healthcare should be accessible to all. For more than half a century, the guiding principles of the NHS have been to provide treatment free at the point of delivery and based on clinical need, not privilege. In recent years, chronic under funding and growing demand for healthcare has resulted in the NHS developing an unhealthy dependency on expensive agency staff, as a government-enforced cap on public sector wages drives thousands of NHS workers out of the sector and leaves gaping holes in patient care; without the weekly £350m injection promised by Brexiteers before the 2016 EU referendum…

The NHS is suffering through a period of ill-health. The 1% pay cap, uncertainty created by Brexit, staff shortages, growing private sector influence, ideologically-driven cuts to investment; the prognosis looks bleak.

Open Forum Events recognises the need for action, that’s why we’re hosting Frontline Services: Putting the NHS Workforce at the Heart of Healthcare. The event seeks to provide practical analysis of the ailments taking a toll on the NHS workforce, featuring insightful opinion from medical professionals and workforce colleagues committed to protecting the NHS; ultimately inspiring engaging debate on how to ensure that the National Health Service remains committed to providing the high-quality patient care it has established an international reputation on.

The government has outlined several strategies it plans to implement to counteract the pressures mounting on the NHS, revolving for the most part around bolstering the workforce through:

  • Increasing the number of places allocated to trainee doctors by 1,500 per year by 2020; a growth of 25%. Additionally, 10,000 extra places will be made available for trainee nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.
  • Allocating £100m to recruit up to 3,000 GP’s from overseas; adding to the government’s pledge of 5,000 new GP’s by 2020.
  • Incentivise staff who have left the NHS to return.
  • Investing £1.3billion in mental health services to bring psychiatric treatment into line with physical care; establishing 24/7 mental health services.

These are welcome investments from the government. However, such initiatives will take years to roll-out, particularly the training schemes; so, what can be done to address the immediate workforce crisis?  

A particularly divisive initiative that has been pursued by successive governments is the growing influx of private sector influence within the NHS. The ideology that drives the increased private sector presence is that a more competitive environment will result in healthcare providers vying to deliver the best standards of patient care and be fiscally rewarded for doing so. This free-market approach has been met with suspicion; many questioning the motive behind incremental privatisation, believing that changes to the delivery of some allied health services are the first step towards a healthcare system resembling the USA-model. It was the introduction of charges for dental care, spectacles and prescriptions that led to Aneurin Bevan’s resignation from government in 1951; stating: “It is the beginning of the destruction of those services” and “I will never be a member of a government which makes charges in the National Health Services for the patient.”    

Pressure is mounting on the government to scrap the public sector pay cap and a recent YouGov poll indicated that public opinion is firmly behind lifting it; with 68% of respondents believing that NHS staff are underpaid and 57% admitting they would willingly pay more tax to ensure better patient care. Janet Davies, Royal College of Nursing General Secretary supports lifting the cap as well as reinstating the NHS bursaries that student nurses, midwives or trainee allied health professionals will no longer receive as of 2017:

“More people are leaving nursing than joining – deterred by low pay, relentless pressure and new training costs. For the sake of patient safety, the Chancellor must scrap the cap and help to fill the tens of thousands of vacant nurse jobs. It’s time for ministers to face facts; they will struggle to build a strong and resilient workforce unless they lift the cap on pay and reinstate student funding.”

Frontline Services: Putting the NHS Workforce at the Heart of Healthcare will feature guest addresses from industry leaders and insight from members of the workforce who, more than anyone else, live with the realities of under funding, low pay, budget constraints and staff shortages. With their assistance, Open Forum Events are looking to facilitate an understanding of how to overcome workforce barriers to providing effective care, present the opportunity for actionable networking between delegates to tackle shared challenges and analyse how Brexit might affect the NHS.  

We hope you can join us at the event on February 13th at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.   

  • nhs
  • NHS England
  • NHS Improvement
  • health
  • mental health
  • health and social care
  • public services
  • public sector