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NHS in England facing worst staffing crisis in history

THE large number of unfilled NHS job vacancies is posing a serious risk to patient safety, a report by MPs says. It found England is now short of 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives, calling this the worst workforce crisis in NHS history.

It said a reluctance to decisively plug the staffing gap could threaten plans to tackle the Covid treatment backlog. The government said the workforce is growing and NHS England is drawing up long-term plans to recruit more staff.

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who chairs the Commons health and social care select committee that produced the report, said tackling the shortage must be a “top priority” for the new prime minister when they take over in September.

“Persistent understaffing in the NHS poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety, a situation compounded by the absence of a long-term plan by the government to tackle it,” he said.

A ‘NATIONAL SCANDAL’

An accompanying report found that rates of harassment and abuse in the NHS were concerningly high with 28% of staff experiencing at least one incident of bullying in the last twelve months. The committee also heard evidence from former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who resigned earlier this month, that the government was not on track to deliver its manifesto commitment to increase the number of GPs in England by 6,000.

There was concern about maternity services, with more than 500 midwives leaving the health service between March 2021 and March 2022.

The committee described a situation where NHS pensions arrangements meant some senior doctors were better off retiring or reducing their working hours as a “national scandal” and called for swift action to change the rules.

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