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Hunt urged to act on Treasury blocking NHS workforce report

Hunt urged to act on Treasury blocking NHS workforce report
By Jess Hacker
14 March 2023

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has been urged to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to publishing the independent NHS workforce projections following reports the Treasury has halted its release.

In his autumn statement last year, Mr Hunt confirmed the NHS would issue a long-awaited independently verified plan for the number of doctors and nurses it will need over the next five, 10 and 15 years.

However The Times reported last week that the Treasury is attempting to curb the plans, with senior officials reportedly suggesting the NHS remove all numbers from the blueprint.

The Times’ report acknowledged that Mr Hunt is unlikely to accept this, but added that officials are pushing NHS chiefs to include lower estimates to avoid committing higher tax spending.

Mr Hunt, in his capacity as former chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, has historically been vocally supportive of the long-term NHS workforce plan.

The NHS Confederation has now written to the Chancellor asking him to reaffirm his commitment and allow the full independent report to be released.

It also urged Mr Hunt to commit funding to the plan in full as part of his spring budget, which is to be set before parliament this Wednesday (15 March).

The letter stated: ‘Failure to do this will see the NHS continue to be under-staffed, with all of the implications that brings for patient care, waiting times, the efficiency of services and for staff morale. In short, the NHS will be stuck in perpetual crisis management, which for the sake of everyone who works in and relies on its services, must not happen.’

The Confederation flagged that the NHS has reported more than 124,000 vacancies, with current staff across the service striking over the last three months over pay and working conditions.

A failure to manage the crises will see health leaders choose ‘which aspects of their services they must cut at a time when demand is through the roof’.

The Treasury declined to comment.

Healthcare Leader last week published its NHS workforce report, which took an in-depth look across the core primary care professions to examine current workforce and training numbers.

It comes after the Health and Social Care Select Committee last month warned the Government has made ‘inadequate’ progress in digitising the NHS, with improvements coming too slowly and lacking proper funding.

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