Health and Social Care Sector Workforce

Health and Social Care – in the House of Commons at on 19 February 2019.

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Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

What steps he is taking to ensure a sustainable workforce in the health and social care sector.

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

The long-term plan explicitly recognises the importance of the workforce, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has commissioned the chair of NHS Improvement to work closely with the chair of Health Education England in leading detailed work programmes to deliver an implementation plan. Social care plays a vital role in the forthcoming adult social care Green Paper, in which we will set out our plans to recruit, train and retain good people.

Photo of Gavin Newlands Gavin Newlands Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Northern Ireland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

The Minister is right about the workforce challenge for all four health services in the UK, but the number of students in England taking nursing degree courses in the past two years has dropped by 900; and at over 11%, NHS England’s nursing vacancy rate is more than twice that in Scotland. With a 90% drop in the number of EU nurses coming to the UK because of Brexit and fewer students starting degree courses because of the cost, is it not time to follow Scotland by reintroducing the nursing bursary and ending tuition fees?

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

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will want to recognise the latest UCAS data for this year’s application cycle, which shows that, compared to the same time last year, there has been a 4.5% increase in the number of applicants for undergraduate nursing and midwifery courses. This is a significant improvement. He will also want to recognise that the loans system provides an extra £1,000. [Interruption.]

Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives

On Friday, I was privileged to take part in the launch of the health and social care academy in Cornwall. Cornwall NHS and social care providers have come together to train local students, including mature students, within the local health and social care provision without student tuition fees so that they can secure a job in Cornwall. May I invite the Minister to come and see the work we are doing and welcome this local innovation that is helping to address the NHS workforce challenge?

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

My hon. Friend rightly points out that there are several routes into healthcare professions, and I am delighted by what is happening in Cornwall. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be visiting him in the very near future.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Labour), Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

We are in the midst of the worst-ever NHS workforce crisis, with more than 100,000 vacancies. The situation is unsustainable. Well-respected think-tanks say the figure could rise to 350,000 vacancies within a decade. What does the Minister consider a sustainable vacancy level both now and in a decade’s time?

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

The hon. Gentleman will recognise that the £20.5 billion in real terms that we are investing in the NHS under the long-term plan will make a significant difference. He will also want to recognise the roll-out of medical places, the fact that more people are applying for nursing places now than they were last year and the detailed implementation plans that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has commissioned. These will deliver a sustainable workforce.