Lancaster experts contribute towards official report into health and social care workforce


Lancaster University researchers have submitted written evidence for an Expert Panel report commissioned by the Parliamentary Health and Social Care Committee.

The report entitled “Workforce: recruitment, training and retention” considered how the Government had progressed overall in three policy areas across the NHS and social care: planning for the workforce; building a skilled workforce and wellbeing at work, including reducing high rates of bullying in the NHS.

Written evidence was submitted by Dr Liz Brewster, Dr Michael Lambert, Dr Luigi Sedda, Dr Euan Lawson, Barry Rowlingson, Dr Cliff Shelton from Lancaster Medical School and Professor Jo Rycroft Malone, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medicine.

Dr Brewster, who leads the interdisciplinary academic research team, said: “The commitment to ensure that the NHS and social care system have the nurses, midwives, doctors, carers and other health professionals that it needs is vital to the sustainability of the healthcare system.

“Our research focuses on medical education, doctors-in-training, the recruitment and retention of doctors, and their uneven distribution.

“In line with the government commitment to ensuring the adequacy of medical workforce, our evidence focuses on the planning needed to meet the outlined objectives of developing a sustainable NHS. We assess whether the commitment was appropriate, effectively funded, achieved a positive impact for patients and service users, and whether it was met overall.”

The comments from the Lancaster team were integrated into the report by the Expert Panel which was chaired by Professor Dame Jane Dacre, Professor of Medical Education at University College London.

Professor Dacre said: “We could not give the Government any higher than an ‘inadequate’ rating on its overall progress in meeting its own targets set for the NHS and social care workforce.”

The report outlines the scale of the workforce crisis: new research suggests the NHS in England is short of 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives; evidence on workforce projections say an extra 475,000 jobs will be needed in health and an extra 490,000 jobs in social care by the early part of the next decade; hospital waiting lists reached a record high of nearly 6.5 million in April.

The number of full-time equivalent GPs fell by more than 700 over three years to March 2022.

The report describes a situation where NHS pension arrangements force senior doctors to reduce working hours as a “national scandal” and calls for swift action to remedy.

Maternity services are flagged as being under serious pressure with more than 500 midwives leaving in a single year.

Pay is a crucial factor in recruitment and retention in social care. Government analysis estimated more than 17,000 jobs in care paid below the minimum wage.

Health and Social Care Committee Chair Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt said: “Persistent understaffing in the NHS poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety, a situation compounded by the absence of a long term plan by the Government to tackle it.

“We now face the greatest workforce crisis in history in the NHS and in social care with still no idea of the number of additional doctors, nurses and other professionals we actually need. NHS professionals know there is no silver bullet to solve this problem but we should at least be giving them comfort that a plan is in place. This must be a top priority for the new Prime Minister.”

Key recommendations from the Committee’s report include:

· The Government must act swiftly to reform the NHS pension scheme to prevent senior staff from reducing their hours and retiring early from the NHS.

· The Government must set out a plan within six months to explain how it intends to recruit the number of people necessary to deliver safe staffing levels for maternity services in England.

· HMRC should proactively enforce the minimum and living wage for domiciliary care workers.

· Care workers should be considered skilled workers.

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