The Liberal Democrats have claimed that the NHS is facing a winter `staffing crisis’.
Using vacancy figures for doctors and nurses, Liberal Democrat NHS spokesman, Dr Evan Harris, stressed the need for increased funds to pay for more medical and nursing students.
“Years of Conservative neglect have sapped staff morale and this Government must take action now. It has been in office for nine months and not lifted a finger to fell these gaping holes in NHS staff shortages,” he said.
As of September 1996, there were 1,410 vacancies for hospital doctors in England, according to a Commons written reply. Separate statistics on nursing staff, midwives and health visitors showed 8,271 vacancies at March 31. And there were 827 GP vacancies as at October l last year.
Harris added: “With nearly 10,000 doctors and nurses missing from wards, a record number of operations have been cancelled.” A recommended rise in the number of medical students by The Medical Workforce Standing Advisory Committee is 20% over the original target of 4,970 by the millennium.
But as Harris noted: “The current intake is 3,410 and no funding has yet been secured to raise this number.”