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NHS Workforce Planning

Volume 712: debated on Tuesday 19 April 2022

11. What recent progress his Department has made on NHS (a) short-term and (b) long-term workforce planning. (906520)

The workforce are the heart of our NHS, and I join the Minister for Care and Mental Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan), and Opposition Members in paying tribute and putting on record our thanks to those who work in the NHS. In the short term, the NHS has well-established processes to ensure that the health service has the right number of staff with the right skills, and that is alongside our investment in workforce expansion, including delivering 50,000 more nurses over the course of this Parliament. For the longer term, we have commissioned Health Education England to set out the key drivers of workforce supply and demand. It is due to report this spring. Building on that, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term workforce framework. We will share the conclusions in due course.

The anti-immigration, “hostile environment” rhetoric and actions of this Government are having a significant impact on our NHS workforce, both by not encouraging people to come here to work in our NHS and by discouraging current staff from staying here. The Health and Social Care Committee recommended the introduction of a national policy framework on migration to support national and local workforce planning. When will the Government implement that recommendation?

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. We are clear, and always have been clear, about how much we value the huge contribution that overseas workers in our NHS make towards keeping our health service up and running, and delivering first-class care every day. There are three strands to our approach to building and increasing our workforce. The first is increasing the numbers of people training in this country and the second is increasing retention. The third focuses on the workforce who come from overseas and who are incredibly welcome here. Indeed, the number of people coming from countries outside the EU into our NHS workforce has increased.

The Minister will be aware that I have highlighted the challenge for rural areas in developing a workforce plan on a number of occasions. Indeed, the last report from the all-party parliamentary group on rural health and social care made 10 recommendations, including for how we might address workforce planning in rural areas. Will the Minister advise me of what steps he has taken to put in place any of those recommendations to improve the plight of those living in rural areas?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who takes a close interest in this issue, which she and I have discussed on a number of occasions. She is right to highlight the challenges that some more remote or rural communities can face in securing the workforce they need to meet their communities’ needs. The HEE work and the subsequent workforce framework will be looking at that across the whole range of different geographies and the challenges they face.

The Scottish Government have recently bought Carrick Glen, a private healthcare hospital, in order for it to become part of the national network of treatment centres, which once fully operational will have capacity for over 40,000 additional surgeries and procedures each year. In contrast, the UK Government have taken the path of further privatisation of the NHS, so what recent assessment has the Minister made of the impact on the workforce of further privatisation of NHS England?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and had we been going further down the route of privatisation, his question might have had a little more resonance. What we are doing in the NHS in England is investing in our workforce and investing in our national health service, while of course working closely with the independent sector to maximise the use of its capacity in parallel to make sure we bring down waiting lists and waiting times.