Skip to main content

Registered Nurses: Staffing Levels

Volume 652: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2019

7. What recent assessment he has made of trends in the staffing levels of registered nurses in hospitals. (908562)

Our policies have allowed the NHS to recruit over 13,400 more nurses into all wards since 2010. Additionally, we have increased the number of available nurse training places, offering new routes into the profession and encouraging those who have left nursing to return to practice, alongside retaining more of the staff that we have now.

With your permission, Mr Speaker, I was so enthusiastic about the number of extra staff in the national health service, I might have inadvertently misled my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis): it is 500 obs and gynae doctors since 2010.

You are very kind, Mr Speaker. The latest Care Quality Commission report on Lincoln County Hospital found sufficient nursing staff on only four of the 28 days reviewed and a heavy reliance on agency staff. As people know, I was a cardiac nurse for 12 years, and I can tell the House that agency nurses are expensive and create extra work—often they cannot do IVs and they are not familiar with paperwork, so the regular nurses end up doing half their jobs for them. Will the Secretary of State explain to the House why the NHS long-term plan has no policy on effectively tackling understaffing and no mention of reinstating the nursing bursary, which enabled nurses like me to train?

The hon. Lady is right: we want to see more nurses in the NHS. That is why we have provided funding to increase nurse training places by 25% and why the long-term plan will have a detailed workforce implementation plan. She talked about the bursary, but since that was replaced nurses on current training schemes are typically 25% better off. Alongside that, additional funds support learning.

I welcome the fact that my local trust has 94 more nurses than in 2010. What is the Minister doing to ensure greater retention of nurses at my local hospitals, so that they have their own nurses instead of relying so much on agency nurses?

As I said earlier, nurses are absolutely the heart of our NHS, and my hon. Friend is right about the extra number of nurses at her hospitals. She is also right that retention is one of our big issues. That is why the Agenda for Change pay award was put through last year, why we are working with Health Education England to look at other retention methods and why we are increasing the number of training places to ensure that we not only retain nurses but recruit more into the national health service.

I join you, Mr Speaker, in wishing my colleague a happy birthday. I acknowledge that no one knows better than she does about the crisis in nursing staff levels. At the same time, the shortfall in GPs has risen to 6,000, and a third of all practices have been unable to fill vacancies for over three months. Unsurprisingly, waiting times for GP appointments are at an all-time high. As ever under this Government, it is patients who suffer. The situation is set to get worse, with more practices destined to close this year. Why are the Government not taking urgent action to tackle that? When will we finally see the workforce implementation plan that has been promised?

The hon. Lady asks about GPs. As she would want to acknowledge, a record number of doctors are being recruited into GP training. We are determined to deliver an extra 5,000 doctors into general practice. NHS England and Health Education England have a number of schemes in place to recruit more GPs and to boost retention—the GP retention scheme and the GP retention fund—and she will know, as I have said it twice this morning, that the workforce implementation plan, which is part of the long-term plan, will be published in the spring.