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NHS: Workforce Implementation Plan

Volume 795: debated on Tuesday 5 February 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they intend to publish the NHS Workforce Implementation Plan which was announced in the NHS Long Term Plan, published on 7 January.

My Lords, the chair of NHS Improvement and the chair of Health Education England will present initial recommendations to DHSE in spring 2019. A final workforce implementation will follow later in the year, taking into account the outcomes of the spending review. The new national workforce group will consider key areas including the future workforce, making the NHS the best place to work, leadership development and talent management.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. Does she accept that there are currently over 110,000 vacancies in the NHS, yet only last week the Government announced that they were to recruit 20,000 pharmacists, physios and paramedics to assist GPs? Where are these people going to come from?

My Lords, this Government are committed to an NHS and social care that work for everyone. In 2018, we committed to increasing NHS funding by an average of 3.4% year on year, meaning that by 2023-24 the NHS will receive £20.5 billion a year more than it currently does, giving the around 1 million NHS staff a well-deserved pay rise with all staff receiving at least a 3% pay increase by the end of 2018-19. We are increasing the number of training places for doctors, nurses and midwives, with more GPs than ever starting training in the NHS this year. We are delivering an additional 1,500 undergraduate medical places as part of the extension, opening five new medical schools across England.

However, I take on board the point that the noble Lord is making. We also have short-term strategies in place, which means that we are looking at increasing the workforce even further.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the planned rollout of the new, more sensitive screening test for bowel cancer has been delayed because of a shortage of appropriate staff to undertake the follow-ups? That is life-saving work. What is the Government’s plan to correct the situation?

My Lords, as I have said, we have already put in place significant actions to boost the supply of nurses, ranging from training more nurses to offering new routes into the profession and enhancing reward and pay packages to make nursing more attractive, improve retention and encourage those who have left to return to nursing. There are almost 13,400 more nurses on our wards since 2010. However, we are certainly not complacent.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is going to be an advantage that all newly qualified nurses and midwives are going to be guaranteed a place in a hospital for the first five years, and are going to be guaranteed a place in the region where they qualified?

Yes, my Lords, I agree. Every nurse or midwife graduating will be offered a five-year NHS job guarantee within the region where they qualify. I might also say that an extra 5,000 places will be funded from 2019-20 for clinical placements—a 25% increase. From 2021, we will provide funding for as many places as universities fill—up to a 50% increase—and we are making training much more accessible with a new online nursing degree, costing students a lot less money than currently.

My Lords, could the Minister assure the House that, when the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, conducts her workforce review, she consults not only the BMA and the royal colleges but the trade unions representing the people who clean our hospitals and serve meals, and the porters, ambulance drivers, paramedics, receptionists and auxiliary workers? This includes Unison, Unite, GMB, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, the Society of Radiographers and so on.

My Lords, I cannot see my noble friend Lady Harding in her place, but of course NHS Improvement will consult at the widest level to ensure that views are gathered from all concerned.

My Lords, the Minister refers frequently to recruitment, but the more pressing need is the retention of trained and experienced personnel. The long-term plan has some measures aimed at this, but the need is immediate. What thought has been given to local, flexible and urgent measures to improve the morale and retention of experienced personnel in the NHS?

The noble and gallant Lord makes an excellent point. We are looking at flexibility for nurses and GPs. Indeed, we are looking at shortened training of up to four years, as well as models of training for doctors, so there is much greater flexibility for the workforce. It is very important to ensure we support our workforce as best we possibly can.

My Lords, it is encouraging to hear that the long-term plan will include funding for services for those with gambling addictions. With 430,000 gambling addicts in this country, of which 55,000 are teenagers, this is a really urgent matter. Can we press Her Majesty’s Government please to move on this quickly? There is only one NHS clinic available at the moment. If funding is an issue, will the Government explore the possibility of introducing a mandatory levy on the gambling industry to pay for the cost to the NHS, which Simon Stevens suggests is £1.2 billion?

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is right that gambling is an issue. We are doing everything we can to ensure that the industry itself takes this seriously. Equally, in the NHS, we see that some of the issues are health related and we need to do more.

My Lords, when the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill that we are discussing this afternoon is eventually passed by the two Houses, will we be able to go to Europe to get our healthcare there from the health professionals who used to be here?

My Lords, the reciprocal healthcare agreement is extremely important. The Government deeply value the contribution of the 63,000 EU nationals currently working in NHS trusts and CCGs and the 104,000 EU nationals working in social care jobs. We are absolutely clear that we want them to stay and work in the UK after we leave the EU.