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NHS Work Force

Volume 497: debated on Tuesday 13 October 2009

The most recent NHS work force census was published in March this year, and it shows that, as at 30 September 2008, there were 1,368,186 staff employed by the NHS in England. That is equivalent to 1,124,818 staff working full time.

I acknowledge the huge increase in expenditure on the NHS, but does the Minister accept that many non-clinical staff have been needed because of the service’s top-down style of management and bureaucracy, as well as what I would call its “tick-box” culture? In these straitened economic times, will she ensure that front-line clinical services and staff will be protected—not least in maternity services, given the increasing birth rate due to immigration—

I can assure the hon. Lady that front-line clinical staff will be protected at all times, as quality and safety are this Government’s priorities. Managerial staff are of course always required to run an efficient and progressive health service, but the front-line clinical staff will be there to provide the quality service that we have grown to respect and need.

The Royal College of Surgeons conducted a large-scale survey of its members this summer, and it found that two thirds of surgeons felt that the quality of care given to patients had been reduced because of the European working time regulations. Will the Minister say whether there are enough surgeons to cope? Should we not have rather more in the NHS work force?

Our overriding priority will always be to continue to ensure that patients experience high-quality, safe and effective care in the NHS, which of course we have provided by our surgeons. Hospitals such as Homerton in London have been working a 48-hour week for more than two years, and have produced evidence that the change has decreased hospital mortality. There is no evidence of harm being caused to patients. I think we all want our surgeons to be rested and to have had a night’s sleep, to be well equipped for the job ahead.