NHS ‘staffing crisis must be addressed’ in forthcoming workforce plan

Health experts have urged the Government to address a “staffing crisis” in the NHS in the forthcoming workforce plan.

Unison said every member of NHS staff on picket lines in recent months “had a story to tell about the workforce crisis”.

The union said that issues including pay, short staffing and morale were leading to staff “leaving the jobs they love in the NHS”.

Meanwhile NHS Employers also called on the Government to use the plan to “make clear its commitment to invest in staff numbers and development, and for employers to redouble their efforts to improve workplaces across the NHS”.

It comes after the long-running dispute between NHS staff and the Government over pay came to an end for a large number of unions.

The majority of unions representing NHS organisations voted in favour of a revised pay offer from the Government, paving the way for ministers to impose a 5% pay rise for this year and a one-off lump sum for last year.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the deal was the “final offer” as he urged the unions holding out – including the Royal College of Nursing and Unite – to accept the deal.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “All unions, whether they have voted to accept the deal or not, as well as NHS leaders themselves, remain concerned about the impact of the cost of living on their members and colleagues, in addition to feeling worried about the present difficulties facing their patients and communities.

“The impending NHS workforce plan is an opportunity for the Government to make clear its commitment to invest in staff numbers and development, and for employers to redouble their efforts to improve workplaces across the NHS.

“Employers are committed to working with unions and Government to address these continued concerns, and to implement what we hope will be an ambitious and far-reaching plan for our people and patients.”

Speaking to the PA news agency after the announcement, Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, said: “The clear message that was coming from every single member of NHS staff who was on strike – whether they were a paramedic, a nurse, an occupational therapist, a physio, a dietitian, whatever their occupation – was people had a story to tell about the workforce crisis.

“So not just pay but short staffing, morale, all of these issues that we wanted to work with Government on, and this time last year we were asking, putting forward, a retention package and asking Government to work with us to stop people leaving jobs that they love in the NHS for avoidable reasons, and we may have worked out a way of resolving the pay dispute but we are very, very short of having a coherent workforce strategy in the NHS.

“The next step for Government has to be to work productively with trade unions, with employers, with other stakeholders, and build a sustainable workforce strategy so that we are not pitched into this crisis in the next pay round.”

Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM), said: “High absence levels, burnout and low morale continue to dominate the picture for staff across the NHS in the UK and have done for some time now.”

Speaking ahead of the SAM annual conference in Copenhagen, he added: “The NHS workforce plan needs to be published immediately and be comprehensive in its ambitions so that it provides colleagues with light at the end of tunnel and a belief for patients that the service will deliver the standards they desire and deserve.

“There is also an essential need to increase capacity urgently. We are heading for extremely troubled times in urgent and emergency care though it remains possible to change this – but it needs action now.”

He warned that current pressures mean acute medical care is often being delivered in hospital corridors, posing a risk to patients.

“Caring for patients in such inappropriate environments due to long waits poses significant risk to patients and increases the risk of adverse events and death, with older patients particularly bearing the brunt of this,” he added.