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Government has ‘missed’ its chance to improve NHS workforce shortages, says Jeremy Hunt


By Jess Hacker
15 February 2022

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The Government has ‘missed’ the opportunity to address staff shortages in rejecting proposals to improve NHS workforce planning, chair of the Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) Jeremy Hunt has said.

The former health secretary said that the Government’s dismissal of the HSCC’s call for ‘transparent and independent’ workforce projections was a ‘missed opportunity’ to tackle staff burnout.

Mr Hunt’s comments come after the Government published its response (15 February) to the Committee’s June inquiry into workforce burnout in the NHS.

The initial inquiry claimed that workforce burnout put the functionality of systems at risk of failing, citing workforce planning as being ‘responsible’ for pressure on staff.

It had recommended the Health and Care Bill require Health Education England (HEE) to publish annual reports on workforce shortages and requirements to help alleviate those pressures.

However, the Government today declined to accept the recommendation, instead flagging that the Bill already requires the health secretary to produce a workforce report every five years.

The Government did recognise several recommendations, particularly around improving workplace culture to benefit staff wellbeing.

In particular, it agreed that with the need to consider the role of targets that may create a culture that deprioritises staff wellbeing.

‘Future proof workforce planning’ needed to tackle shortages

Mr Hunt said that ‘this long-awaited response is a missed opportunity to properly address the single biggest driver of workforce burnout, staff shortages’.

He added: ‘Unless we have future proof workforce planning, it will not be possible to address the NHS backlog and the cycle of crises putting dangerous pressure on staff will continue.

‘We hope the Government will be persuaded by the case for independent workforce planning as the Health and Care Bill progresses through Parliament.’

Without such planning, the Committee sees ‘little hope that the workforce crisis will be alleviated’, he said.

It comes after MPs recently voted against a similar proposal which would have seen the health secretary produce a biennial report into how the NHS is meeting workforce needs.

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