Responding to headline announcements on the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan ahead of the full document being published on Friday, Dr Latifa Patel, BMA representative body chair and workforce lead, said:
“After persistent failures to do any sort of proper workforce planning over the last decade, the release of this strategy is long, long overdue.
“Finally, we have recognition not just of the vast workforce shortages we have now – but what happens if nothing changes: 360,000 vacancies – the population of a small city missing from the NHS workforce by 2037.
“As ever, the devil will be in the detail – especially when it comes to funding – and we await the full publication to make a proper assessment. The BMA has been campaigning for a national workforce strategy based on credible modelling for years.
“At a time when healthcare workers are already contending with more than 100,000 vacancies and in turn, record long waiting lists that the Government says it is so keen on tackling, recruiting enough staff – and crucially keeping them – must be the absolute priority.
“Doubled medical school places means more doctors entering the system, which is no doubt a good thing, but we need guarantees that the initial expansion will be followed with the infrastructure needed to support doctors throughout their training and into their future careers. There’s no point having more students if there are no academics to teach them, no spaces to learn in and no consultants and GPs to supervise them once they graduate.
“This is why retention is key, and where today’s announcement feels particularly light. It’s all well and good training new doctors, but pointless if they don’t stay in the workforce. Investing in medical school places while refusing to reverse years of pay erosion for doctors and fixing the broken pay review system, is completely illogical and uneconomical. Doctors will leave for better paid jobs abroad and we won’t see the benefits of increased recruitment.
“While doctors appreciate the hard work of colleagues across the health service, they want to be valued and they don’t want the quality of care diminished in a bid to fill gaps. The wider use of physician associates must come with clear boundaries around expectations, and not impact on the training of medical students and doctors. Accelerated undergraduate degrees and apprenticeships are untested, and must not mean a two-tier system of doctors. Large questions again remain about who will support the training of doctors coming via this route.
“There are laudable aims to this plan, but for it to succeed it needs to take the profession with it. Implementation and further multi-year funding will be key. Without a detailed road map to say how it will improve care for patients and working conditions for staff, it is merely a wish list.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors and medical students 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.
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