Tag Archives: Healthcare workforce

We need to talk about the Healthcare workforce – again

So what’s changed since my last piece for LDV on this ten months ago? – nothing and everything, in a phrase, it’s got much worse.

Last March the fear of an unknown, rapidly spreading and possible deadly virus, the prospect of the NHS being overwhelmed; inadequate ventilators and ITU beds, terrifying pictures from Italy of a modern health system crumbling in front of our eyes and our own government indecisive and floundering, with no plan and even less preparedness, galvanised the NHS workforce as never before in living memory. Things happened fast; the NHS workforce rose to the challenge, found the energy, carried on under almost impossible odds, and paid the ultimate price.

I won’t recite all the twists and turns, everyone knows them very well, except to say that you can build all the Nightingale hospitals you want, but if you don’t have the skilled workforce to staff them, they are pretty useless.

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We need to talk about the healthcare workforce

As a nation, we have spent the last month endlessly talking about PPE, testing and even ventilators, remorselessly picking over the technical details of things which most people still do not understand. The government is pleased for us to do this because it keeps us off the one topic they have no answer for; the elephant in the room of a totally inadequate healthcare workforce stretched to breaking point. Even with all the goodwill in the world, re-calling retired doctors and nurses doesn’t solve it.
There are many good reasons why the NHS is supposed to run at 85% of capacity; one is so that there is then some slack in the system for unforeseen emergencies. That has not happened in the last few years as successive Conservative governments have squeezed the service harder and harder driving capacity dangerously close to 95% and beyond, not addressed staffing shortages at all levels and reduced the bed numbers by too much (by at least 7,000) Eventually acknowledged by Jeremy Hunt himself towards the end of his 7+year tenure as Secretary of state for Health and Social Care.

The summer ‘respite’ for the health service didn’t happen last year or the year before, or the year before that, and the workforce has remained thousands short across the board; GPs, hospital specialists and trainees, nurses and care workers, result; an exhausted workforce close to burn-out. Add to this the wanton neglect of an able and willing EU workforce over 100,000 which was pushed out by a hostile environment as Brexit became a reality at the end of 2019 and here we are reaping the whirlwind.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 9 Comments
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