Commenting on the latest NHS workforce and vacancy data1 in hospital trusts, Dr Rob Harwood, BMA consultants’ committee chair, said:
“The pandemic has taken its toll on healthcare workers and it is truly sad to see that mental ill health accounts for nearly a third of all recorded sickness absences. Doctors have been working tirelessly throughout these unprecedented times, treating patients and ensuring the safe delivery of care, but at a great cost.
“Only a month ago we heard from our members that thousands are thinking of leaving the NHS because of exhaustion and stress, with no respite from the demands of the pandemic. We also know that many are unable to take leave as they work valiantly to help clear the backlog of health needs of their patients.
“It is vital that the Government is realistic with the public about how long the backlog will take to tackle, but they must also ensure that the welfare of healthcare staff remains the number one priority.
“It’s also deeply worrying to see such large numbers of vacancies across medical, clinical and non-clinical posts. Over 76,000 posts remain unfilled at a time when the NHS desperately needs more staff to deal with the 4.95 million people who are on the waiting lists to start treatment, and to be able to accommodate future demand.
“This persistent NHS staff vacancy gap and the current lack of medium to long-term planning, means that growing patient demand threatens to overwhelm such slow workforce growth. We know that the population is set to grow by nine percent over the next two decades, with at least one in every four citizens aged 65 or over by the early 2040s, so it’s imperative that the forthcoming Health and Care Bill includes accountability for regular healthcare workforce assessment to enable workforce planning that ensures safe staffing levels are realised.
“We desperately need a comprehensive and long-term strategy for tackling the historic workforce crisis in the NHS, backed with significant new investment in workforce expansion coupled with a fair pay deal for these essential healthcare professionals who keep the health service running.”
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.