The NHS and social care face the greatest workforce crisis in their history, compounded by the absence of a credible Government strategy to tackle the situation, say MPs.
A report on workforce recruitment, training and retention released by the Health and Social Care Committee outlines the scale of the workforce crisis. The report suggests the NHS in England is short of 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives. On top of this, evidence on workforce projections shows 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.
The report also finds the Government to have shown a marked reluctance to act decisively. The refusal to do proper workforce planning risked plans to tackle the Covid backlog - a key target for the NHS.
Commenting on the findings, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Adrian James, said:
“We welcome the Committee’s report, which highlights the crisis facing the Health and Social Care workforce. We also welcome its recommendations, which would make a real impact in addressing some of the challenges facing the workforce if implemented by the Government.
“Mental health services have been under significant pressure for many years, and the situation only stands to get worse as the full impact of the pandemic is beginning to be seen. Our recent workforce census showed that in England, the locum psychiatric consultant workforce has increased by 43.3% since 2017 and the number of unfilled consultant posts has increased by 30.1%. Some people choose to locum as it can mean more flexible working arrangements, and they do a great job for our patients, but a shortage of substantive psychiatrists has an impact on continuity of care and stability of services.
“Whilst we address workforce shortages, we must ensure the people working in the NHS are well-looked after. Alongside emotional and psychological support, urgent action is needed to address dangerously high workloads and prevent a mental health crisis in the NHS and social care sector.
“These pressures will only be compounded by increasing requirements on our existing mental health workforce. Whilst we welcome the clinical review of standards and the reforms in the upcoming Draft Mental Health Bill, these will only add to mounting workforce pressures. We estimate we will need an additional 520 Full-Time Equivalent psychiatrists by 2033/34 alone to properly implement the reforms from the Draft Mental Health Bill.
“If we are to expect a high standard of care for patients, we urgently need a fully funded workforce strategy and extra medical school places to increase supply over the long-term, as recommended by the Committee.”