Rises in the number of medical students and projected increases in nursing staff will not be enough to sustain the NHS, according to a recent report from a House of Commons select committee.
The report stated the NHS was “in the midst of a staffing crisis”. It added low pay, poor conditions of service, lack of career structure, heavy workloads and low morale were all putting people off working for the NHS.
It also called for the NHS pay review system to be replaced by a single body covering all NHS staff.
Evidence was received from a medical workforce standing advisory committee which said the intake by medical schools should be increased by 1,000 a year. It was said this was necessary to reduce the dependency on overseas qualified doctors.
The report also pointed out the number of qualified nurses had fallen from 32,143 in 1993-94 to 26,465 in 1997-98. The number of midwives has declined from 105,723 to 93,776. There are currently about 9,000 nursing vacancies which have been open for three months or more.
The committee stated: “We suggest the government urgently reassesses its staffing figures to ensure an NHS workforce that is sufficient for its requirements.”
It accused the government of taking stop-gap action which was counter-productive. And the report added that it was unacceptable to solve the nursing shortages by recruiting from abroad if this meant creating shortages in developing countries.”
Among the other recommendations included in the report were:
• Healthcare assistants working within the health service to be renamed assistant nurses.
• Overtime payments to replace over reliance on nursing agencies.
• A strategy to recruit and retain more pharmacists.
• NHS financing for continuing professional development courses.