Thank you for contacting me about the Health and Care Bill and the NHS and care workforce.
Health and care staff have been at the heart of the fight against coronavirus, working day and night to protect the NHS and save lives. They do so much to make our health service one to be proud of and they deserve our respect, admiration, and full support.
Despite their remarkable efforts, I remain concerned that a decade of poor planning and short-term thinking by the Government mean that staff shortages have become endemic, leaving staff exhausted, services struggling to cope and people waiting longer for the care they need, even before the pandemic.
A cross-party report published in June 2021 said workforce burnout across the NHS and social care has reached an “emergency level” and poses a risk to the future functioning of services. The NHS Confederation warns that, without the much needed investment in the workforce, NHS trusts across England will be unable to recover lost capacity or address growing backlogs of unmet clinical need.
The Health and Care Bill, which is progressing through Parliament, provides an opportunity to address high rates of vacancy, inadequate levels of retention and workforce terms and conditions. Yet the Government has failed to bring forward a long-term strategy.
During Report Stage in the House of Commons, I supported a cross-party amendment to the Bill that would have required Ministers to publish – every two years – a full and transparent assessment of current and future workforce requirements in health and social care. Disappointingly, Government MPs voted against it and it was defeated.
I am pleased my Opposition colleagues in the House of Lords have secured a similar amendment, which is supported by a major coalition of over 100 health and care organisations. To ensure the NHS and social care have the staff required to meet the needs of patients and service users, I urge Ministers not to seek to overturn this amendment when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.
Health and care services must have the workforce they need to deliver safe high-quality services now and in the future. This amendment is an opportunity to ensure a strategic, long-term approach to health and care workforce planning.
Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue.