NHS and social care staffing crisis ‘not addressed in general election manifestos’

25 May 17

Politicians have not addressed the growing NHS and social care staffing crisis in their general election manifestos, a research centre has warned.  

The parties all recognised funding shortfalls, rising costs, demographic pressures, increased expectations, and changes in health technology and medical practice, the London School of Economics Centre for Economic Performance found.

The report noted 70% of NHS expenditure goes on staffing, stating “it is no surprise that as expenditure tightens, staffing issues are a growing problem”.

Professor Alistair McGuire, author of the report, said: “The growing crisis in staffing in the NHS, which accounts for 70% of total NHS expenditure, is recognised by all parties but remains to be fully addressed.”

The CEP analysed the promises made by the main parties ahead of the general election in its report out today, into the prospects for funding, staffing and performance into the 2020s.

“The planned uplifts in expenditure promised in the party manifestos, whether or not coupled with further efficiency savings, may or may not address all the needs of the NHS,” the report stated.

“And they need to be maintained against a background of hospital deficits, labour force shortages and failing performance.”

McGuire highlighted the recruitment problems facing the health service, which shows while the number of NHS consultants rose by over 25% between 2009/10 and 2015/16, 7.5% of clinical posts remain vacant across England, in parts of London, this vacancy rate rises to 15%.

Vacancy rates for doctors have risen 60% from 2,907 to 4,669 over the two-year period 2013 to 2015.

The number of GPs in the NHS declined in 2014/15, after a 20% growth in their number between 2004 and 2014, although NHS England recently announced an aim to increase GP numbers by 1,000.

For the largest staff group, nurses, there are increasing shortages with vacancy rates estimated to be 17%, having increased by 50% over the period from 2013 to 2015.

This partly reflects declining numbers being trained; 20% fewer trainees have started between 2009/10 and 2012/13 and increasing numbers leaving the profession estimated to be 24,000 in 2012/13 and a further 17,800 in 2013/14.

McGuire emphasised the issue of the public sector 1% pay increase as a hindrance to NHS recruitment and retention, Brexit was also raised as a concern.

He said currently, approximately 50,000 citizens from the European Economic Area are employed in the NHS, representing under 5% of total NHS work force.

It includes over 9,000 doctors, 18,000 nurses and 2,500 extra staff such as clinical scientists and physiotherapists. McGuire remarked: “It remains unclear what impact Brexit will have on NHS employees already in employment or those future healthcare professionals seeking employment in the NHS”.

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