Failure to adequately plan for workforce putting patient care at risk

Billy Palmer responds to the Health and Social Care Select Committee's report on the health and social care workforce.

Press release

Published: 25/07/2022

Responding to the Health and Social Care Select Committee's report on the health and social care workforce, Nuffield Trust Senior Fellow Dr Billy Palmer said:

“The committee is absolutely right that the government’s persistent failure to develop an adequate plan for staffing health and social care is putting patient care at risk.

“Decades of poor planning and the effects of Brexit put the NHS and social care systems on the back foot going into the pandemic with high numbers of vacancies. Despite temporary staff covering some of the shortfall, our own analysis suggests that unfilled posts and staff sickness are now creating even more severe pressures on the delivery of care, making the challenge of tackling the backlog especially daunting.

“Even today, when patients are experiencing the real consequences of this through long waits for care and missed diagnoses, the nettle is not being grasped: the government’s own targets to increase numbers of nurses, GPs and other staff are in peril, with many set to be missed entirely. Meanwhile, long-awaited workforce plans for health and social care remain in the long grass.

“Yet as our evidence to the committee highlighted, there are positive steps that can – and should – be taken now to stem the flow of staff away from health and social care. Reforming how NHS providers are funded for training staff, tackling the shocking levels of discrimination facing black and minority ethnic workers and making overseas recruitment a viable way to fill gaps in the short term, would be a good start.

“But without a comprehensive, funded and bold plan for the workforce of the future, this will not be the last parliamentary report to raise the alarm about staffing problems in health and social care.”

Notes to editors