The Government has squandered the opportunity to achieve safe staffing in NHS and patient care will suffer, warns BMA

by BMA media team

BMA press release. 

Location: England
Last reviewed: 23 November 2021
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Responding to outcome by MPs today1 to vote against an amendment in the Health and Care Bill that would grant greater transparency around workforce numbers in the NHS, Dr David Wrigley, BMA council deputy chair, said:

“With widespread support from more than 60 healthcare organisations, expert thinktanks and influential charities – as well as MPs from across the political spectrum – it is deeply disappointing that the Westminster Government has squandered this opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to safe staffing in the NHS.

“There are 93,000 overall staff vacancies in the NHS, including a critical shortage of nurses, doctors, and midwives among other colleagues. Additionally, the BMA estimates that the NHS in England needs an additional 50,000 doctors to care for patients and provide safe care; the Government must understand the scale of this challenge and meet it with appropriate action.

“The Health and Care Bill as it stands falls woefully short of detail on workforce planning and this amendment, supported by many influential and expert organisations, would have held the Government to account - ensuring it regularly assessed how many doctors we need now and in the future.

“The NHS is under unprecedented pressure, with record-high waiting lists, and staff exhausted from giving their all during the greatest health emergency of our lifetimes as patients continue to suffer significant harm due to understaffing. We therefore need a credible workforce plan that guarantees we’re recruiting – and keeping – the right number and the right kind of staff. This must also address the longstanding pension taxation crisis2 which is forcing many doctors into early retirement.

“We have seen significant support for this amendment in the House of Commons as well as from a huge number of influential bodies. The Westminster Government needs to recognise this and listen to those on the frontline who see the major problems we face day to day in the NHS and act now to support us in our endeavour to provide safe and effective patient care.” 

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. BMA research shows NHS short of 50,000 doctors heading into winter.
  2. BMA response to Autumn budget which fails to address pension crisis.