Staff shortage report amendment to Health and Social Care Bill

by Tim Tonkin

MPs are set to vote on landmark NHS legislation after the Lords endorsed BMA-backed amendments to the Health and Care Bill. 

Location: England
Published: Thursday 14 April 2022

Parliament will once again consider revisions to the proposed legislation after peers reinstated measures into the draft law aimed at increasing transparency over unsafe staffing in the healthcare service. 

The amendment, which was brought forward by Conservative peer Baroness Cumberlege, would place a legal requirement on the health secretary to regularly report on existing and anticipated shortages of NHS healthcare staff in England. 

The move to impose a statutory duty to report on staffing levels has been strongly backed by a coalition of 100 healthcare organisations of which the BMA is a founding member. 

It has also received cross-party support having been endorsed by Labour, Liberal Democrat and DUP MPs, as well as from former NHS chief executive Simon Stevens and health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

It has also received vocal cross-party support having been endorsed by Labour, Liberal Democrat and DUP MPs, as well as from former NHS chief executive Lord Simon Stevens and health secretary Jeremy Hunt.  

Step in

david wrigley WRIGLEY: 'Grave concern'

The latest vote in the Lords also saw peers endorse revisions to the bill introducing safeguards to limit new powers that would, in future, allow the secretary of state to intervene in local service reconfigurations. 

Two previous attempts to include such amendments in the bill had been overturned after being voted down in the Commons. 

Welcoming the Lords’ decision to endorse amendments around workforce transparency and limiting the secretary of states’ powers, BMA deputy council chair David Wrigley said he hoped MPs would heed and accept the importance of these revisions to the bill. 

He said: 'While welcoming the prospect of seeing the 2012 Health and Social Care Act replaced with new legislation, the BMA has also expressed grave concern over many aspects of the proposed Health and Care bill labelling it as "the wrong bill at the wrong time".' 

These concerns include fears that the bill does not sufficiently protect NHS services from being outsourced to the private sector or give a significant enough role to clinical leaders in integrated care systems. 

Recruitment measures

In addition, the BMA has long called for a legal duty around transparency on staffing to be included in the Health and Care Bill, on the grounds that such a measure would allow for targeted pressure on ministers to remedy workforce gaps. 

With Parliament in its Easter recess, MPs are expected to again consider and vote on the Lords’ amendments following their return on 18 April. 

The BMA is urging doctors to support them in pressing for greater government accountability for safe staffing by urging MPs to support the Lords’ amendment to place a legal reporting requirement on the health secretary. 

To this end the association has developed a ‘write to your MP’ tool, designed to streamline and simplify the process for raising such concerns.

For more information on the bill, click here