NHS: Workforce Vacancies

Health and Social Care – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th November 2018.

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Photo of Sandy Martin Sandy Martin Labour, Ipswich 12:00 am, 27th November 2018

What estimate he has made of the level of workforce vacancies in the NHS.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

The NHS employs more staff now than at any other time in its 70-year history. It has recruited 18,200 more doctors and 11,000 more nurses are in our wards since 2010. NHS Improvement publishes vacancy rates using provider information. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the record investment that the Government are providing will ensure that the number of vacancies reduces.

Photo of Sandy Martin Sandy Martin Labour, Ipswich

With Suffolk’s only psychiatric intensive care unit having been closed down from April to October this year because of lack of staff, and with a two-to-three-month waiting list for counselling, does the Minister not understand that his reassurances do not bear much relationship to people’s lived experience?

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

I am aware that the local trust has had a number of problems and that there were a number of bed closures—both temporary and permanent —earlier this year. The trust is closely monitoring how those closures are affecting services and patients. The hon. Gentleman will know that beds are being reopened—five beds have been reopened recently—and that there is a plan to put in place the staffing so that the whole ward can reopen in the near future.

Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Department’s own statistics show that more than 23,000 mental health staff left the workforce last year. That is an eighth of the total mental health workforce. How can we possibly get parity for mental health when more than one in 10 posts are vacant and staff are leaving?

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Government are committed to having more nurses and more staff in training, that we are putting in place extra measures to ensure that specialities are supported through that training process and that the extra £20 billion in the long-term plan will ensure that there are the staff and nurses needed to fill those vacancies.

Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

Last week, the Secretary of State claimed that the number of GPs in England had increased by more than 1,000 from June to September, when the data actually showed a drop of 10 full-time equivalent doctors. In 2015, his predecessor promised an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020, but so far there are 1,000 fewer, so how does the Secretary of State plan to meet that target in just the next year?

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

As the hon. Lady knows from a previous answer, we are committed to making sure that 5,000 extra GP places are available. There are more GPs in training than before, and 52,000 nurses are now in training. We will ensure that the number of GPs in training meets the target.

Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

I find that hard to believe when there is only a year left of the five-year promise.

Scotland has 30% more GPs per head of population, but last year we lost 14% of our EU doctors, and England lost 19%. Does the Secretary of State recognise that the hostile language of the Brexit debate is making the UK seem unwelcoming and making it harder for all four UK health services to recruit?

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

There are currently more doctors from the EU treating patients in the national health service than on referendum day. We are committed to the 5,000 target.