Doctors back call to force government to publish NHS workforce planning

Dozens of healthcare organisations are backing a bid to force the government to report every two years on NHS workforce needs and how they will be met.

Health select committee chair Jeremy Hunt (Photo: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

An amendment to the Health and Care Bill tabled by House of Commons health select committee chair and former health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt would require the government to report regularly on workforce planning, amid growing evidence of a chronic shortage of NHS staff.

More than 60 organisations - including the BMA and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) - are backing the amendment.

It comes just weeks after health and social care secretary Sajid Javid admitted that the government was not on track to deliver its manifesto commitment to increase the full-time equivalent GP workforce by 6,000 by 2024.

GP workload

The BMA estimates that every FTE GP in England is now caring for around 300 more patients on average than in 2015.

Meanwhile an RCP census carried out last year found that physician vacancies have hit their highest point in nearly a decade - with 48% of consultant posts advertised across the UK unfilled.

BMA consultants committee chair Dr Vishal Sharma said that a 'woeful lack of planning' had left the NHS short of doctors before the pandemic - and that COVID-19 pressure had brought the shortfall into 'devastating focus'.

He said: 'The government urgently needs to come up with answers to solve this crisis – both in the short and long term. The increasing numbers of medical students is positive but far more needs to be done.

NHS pensions

'The absurd and damaging pensions taxation issues that force senior doctors to reduce their hours or even retire early must be urgently addressed – something the chancellor failed to do last month in the Spending Review.

'We also need to support the health and wellbeing of our workforce, who are reporting feeling exhausted and burned out, and address the decade of real-terms pay cuts.

'In the longer term we need the government to be held accountable for ensuring safe staffing in the NHS – laying out how many staff we need and how it plans to meet this. The BMA, alongside our colleagues in the royal colleges, influential think tanks and charities, is therefore supporting an amendment to the Health and Care Bill in England.'

A briefing on the proposed amendment said the current Health and Care Bill required the government to 'describe the system in place for assessing and meeting workforce needs', but did not require it to clarify 'whether the system is training and retaining enough people to deliver health and care services now and in the future'.

The briefing adds: 'Workforce is the key limiting factor in the government’s ambitions for health and social care. Regular, independent and public workforce projection data will not solve the NHS workforce crisis. But it will give us the best foundations to take long-term decisions about workforce planning, regional shortages and the skill mix to help the system keep up with service user need.'

Mr Hunt has himself admitted failing to prioritise workforce planning sufficiently while in office as health and social care secretary - and failed to deliver a target set in 2015 to deliver 5,000 more FTE GPs by 2021.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

NHS prescription and packet of pills

GPs can now prescribe flu antivirals on the NHS

GPs and other prescribers are now able to issue NHS prescriptions for antivirals...

GP sign

Prevention set to be key battleground for 2024 GP contract

Negotiations on a new GP contract from 2024/25 will need to 'align closely' with...

Talking General Practice logo

Podcast: What makes a strong PCN and how will integrated care systems affect networks?

Talking General Practice speaks to GP and PCN clinical director Professor Aruna Garcea,...


GP core funding rise outstripped by staff pay awards under five-year contract

Staff pay awards have outstripped increases in core GP practice funding between 2019/20...

BMA sign

Fifth of GP time spent on non-medical work as NHS absorbs cost of 'government failure'

Doctors are 'picking up the pieces of government failures' as the cost-of-living...


How the five fundamentals of COPD care can help GPs support patients

GP Dr Andrew Whittamore, clinical lead at Asthma + Lung UK, explains NICE’s five...