Workforce constraints must be tackled if the Elective Recovery Plan is to deliver, says BMA

BMA press release. 

Location: England
Last reviewed: 8 February 2022
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Responding to the publication of NHS England's Elective Recovery Plan1 today, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“The NHS and patients desperately need this plan to succeed but there are some big questions still to be addressed if this plan is to be effective.

“The biggest limiting factor will be workforce shortages, given that there are currently 100,000 unfilled vacancies across the NHS. Even more worryingly over six in 10 doctors are suffering stress and work-related anxiety, half wish to reduce their hours and 20% are considering leaving the NHS altogether.

“Retaining the current workforce must therefore be the immediate priority – we cannot afford to lose any more staff at this most critical time. Tangible plans must be in place to prioritise staff wellbeing and pay and conditions, at a time when many doctors do not even have access to rest facilities at work. It is vital that punitive pension rules are reformed to prevent talented, senior clinicians from reducing their hours or leaving the NHS altogether.

“It is positive that the proposed patient portal ‘My Planned Care’ for waiting list queries has been announced, something the BMA has long called for. This needs to ensure doctors’ appointments are not taken up by purely administrative questions so that they can instead focus on providing patient care. We also need technology that works and supports clinicians to use their time most effectively – a recent BMA survey2 estimated the current IT infrastructure significantly increased day-to-day workload, with more than a quarter of doctors losing three or more hours a week due to inefficient hardware or systems.

“We have particular concerns about the proposed spend on independent sector providers to deliver care, at a time when the priority must be to increase investment in NHS infrastructure and capacity.

“The Government must also not ignore the parallel backlog of non-surgical medical care, resulting from 29.14 million fewer outpatient appointments during the pandemic. Currently cancer referrals and treatment are now at an all-time high, and millions with long-term conditions are struggling to get the support and care that they need. It is equally important that GPs and primary care teams are provided with the necessary resources to support this unmet need in the community.

“Government has, to date, never fulfilled its obligation to report transparently on staffing levels and produce a workforce plan for the population’s healthcare needs, both now and in the future, and act accordingly.

“This is precisely why the BMA is backing an amendment to the Health and Care Bill which would legislate for a long-term, fully-funded workforce strategy, urgently needed alongside any plan to tackle the backlog, and done partnership with the profession. We hope Government seriously considers this, as well as answering the questions that many existing staff will undoubtedly have about how to get the best out of this plan.”



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. NHS England delivery plan for tackling the Covid-19 elective backlog of care.
  2. Findings taken from latest BMA viewpoint survey – please contact number below for more details.

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