Amendment 80

Health and Care Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 1:15 pm on 3 March 2022.

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Baroness Cumberlege:

Moved by Baroness Cumberlege

80: Clause 35, page 42, leave out lines 14 to 19 and insert—“(1) The Secretary of State must, at least once every two years, lay a report before Parliament describing the system in place for assessing and meeting the workforce needs of the health, social care and public health services in England.(2) This report must include—(a) an independently verified assessment of health, social care and public health workforce numbers, current at the time of publication, and the projected workforce supply for the following five, ten and 20 years; and(b) an independently verified assessment of future health, social care and public health workforce numbers based on the projected health and care needs of the population for the following five, ten and 20 years, taking account of the Office for Budget Responsibility long-term fiscal projections.(3) NHS England and Health Education England must assist in the preparation of a report under this section.(4) The organisations listed in subsection (3) must consult health and care employers, providers, trade unions, Royal Colleges, universities and any other persons deemed necessary for the preparation of this report, taking full account of workforce intelligence, evidence and plans provided by local organisations and partners of integrated care boards.”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment would require the Government to publish independently verified assessments every two years of current and future workforce numbers required to deliver care to the population in England, taking account of the economic projections made by the Office for Budget Responsibility, projected demographic changes, the prevalence of different health conditions and the likely impact of technology.

Photo of Baroness Cumberlege Baroness Cumberlege Conservative

My Lords, as this is Report, I declare my interests, which are that I am employed by NHS England to implement my report on maternity, Better Births.

I shall speak to Amendment 80. I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Birmingham, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Merron. I am really grateful for their cross-party support.

I have had a lot of support for the amendment not only from the whole House, which is very welcome, but from 100 organisations including 16 royal colleges and many important charities. I shall mention just two charities out of the large number from which I have received support: National Voices, which speaks for patients, and YoungMinds—because it is their future that we are talking about. A huge number of patient groups, think tanks and professional bodies have also supported this amendment.

We spoke in Committee about workforce planning. I say to my noble friend the Minister that the strength of feeling on this matter has been great. I make no apology for bringing back this amendment today. Workforce is the single greatest problem facing the NHS. Without improved planning, we will fail to tackle the growing backlog not only in procedures but in appointments within the NHS. We will not know whether we have the right people in the right place at the right time. We will not provide a sustainable work environment for the dedicated staff currently working so hard within our services. We will not meet the public’s expectations when they turn to the NHS for care and support.

In Committee, my noble friend the Minister said that we had a record number of people working in the health service. I do not doubt him for a moment, but it begs the question of whether we have enough to meet demand. Staff numbers may be rising, but so is the backlog. The current NHS waiting list stands at 6.1 million and is rising. We need workforce capacity that can meet not only today’s demand but that of the future. As we all know and have discussed in this Chamber, it take many years to train nurses, doctors and health professionals. We need a long-term view. Without that, we are flying blind.

The NHS is relying more and more on bank and agency staff. Not only is that expensive but it is a sticking-plaster solution. We need a workforce strategy. The Secretary of State told the Health and Social Care Select Committee recently that he had commissioned NHS England to undertake a long-term workforce strategy but, again, that begs questions. We do not know whether the strategy will cover both healthcare and social care. That is essential if we want to improve integration within those services, which, after all, is the very purpose of the Bill—it is not called the Health and Care Bill for nothing.

We do not know what period the strategy will cover, or whether it will be regularly refreshed. We do not know whether it will include numbers of staff needed based on population demand. A workforce plan without numbers simply does not add up. We need clear, verifiable, objective data and analysis to underpin such a strategy, and to enable us to check at regular intervals whether that strategy is working.

When I spoke in Committee, I fear that I may have bombarded your Lordships with numbers—for unified staff vacancies, unfilled staff vacancies, retirement projections and so on. I used all those numbers to illustrate the workforce challenges faced by the health and care system, but I am sure that your Lordships will be grateful that I shall not repeat those today. I want just to say that the numbers are as telling now as they were in Committee; they are not getting better. They underline the need for a long-term plan, backed up by the data and analysis that Amendment 80 would bring. The longer we wait, the worse the situation becomes.

I have mentioned reliance on bank and agency staff. I need to say a very few words about that, because my sense is that behind the Government’s hesitation about this amendment is a concern about the cost complications that it could trigger. Training more healthcare staff will of course cost more money, but not training more staff costs money too. The mismatch between staffing levels and patient demand is leading to significant locum spend to plug the gaps. In 2019-20, £6.2 billion was spent on agency and bank staff in hospitals in England. The latest figures up to September 2021 show that agency and bank spending has increased still further. Projections show that it is expected to go on increasing next year and the year after. That spend can be reduced if we have a proper long-term workforce plan, which must be underpinned and verified by the provisions set out in Amendment 80.

Let us have the numbers that enable the health and care system to plan properly for the long term. Let us in turn have numbers of staff that we need, carrying out the roles that we need, in the locations where they are needed. Let us reduce the excessive reliance on expensive temporary cover and, in turn, let us generate cost savings that can be ploughed back into high-quality care. Rarely has the phrase “strength in numbers” been more apt.

In moving Amendment 80, I look forward to the debate in your Lordships’ House and to my noble friend the Minister’s reply. I hope he will recognise the strength of feeling in the House and in this country as a whole. If the amendment is not acceptable, I am afraid that I will be forced to test the opinion of the House. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Brinton Baroness Brinton Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Health) 1:30, 3 March 2022

My Lords, I shall speak shortly to Amendment 168, but want briefly to refer to Amendment 80, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, and so eloquently introduced by her, and supported across the House. Workforce planning is critical. Frankly, it is surprising that Ministers resisted amendments in Committee which called for formal long-term workforce planning for the NHS, social care and public health to be embedded in legislation.

The noble Baroness said that that current arrangements can be a bit like sticking plasters, and she is right, but it is not just about the use of bank and agency staff but about planning healthcare professional education. We all know how long it takes to train a doctor, but most of the other professionals also cannot just be turned on and off at election time. There have been too many times when this Government have said at elections that they would suddenly magic thousands of extra doctors and nurses. We need to build timescales into that workforce planning. The noble Baroness also talked about population demand, but I want to make another point: this is not just about population numbers; it is also about demographics. We will need more GPs and hospital professionals managing our rapidly ageing population. If we do not encourage people to go into those specialisms, we will not be able to look after our population in 10, 15 or 20 years’ time.

I also agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, that if government resistance is because of the funding implications with delivering such a plan, that is very short sighted. Not planning will be even more catastrophic. Amendment 80 is more modest in nature but is a critical minimum to achieve a commitment to plan effectively for the NHS, social care and public health.

I turn now to Amendment 168. Given that there are a number of speakers on this important group, I will be very brief here too. The amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, echoes the one he laid in Committee, and I am pleased to have signed both. We heard in Committee about this frustrating loophole that meant that it was not possible for certain members of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine to be added to the list of colleges which could be involved in the appointment of NHS consultants. This is now slowing down the appointment of NHS consultants. I am very pleased to support the amendment and hope the Minister will be able to give good news to the House on this amendment too.

Photo of Baroness Pitkeathley Baroness Pitkeathley Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Now I invite the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, who is also speaking remotely, to speak.

Photo of Baroness Masham of Ilton Baroness Masham of Ilton Crossbench

My Lords, I speak to Amendments 80 and 168. Amendment 80 is very important and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, for being so persistent. Throughout the country there is a workforce shortage in hospitals, the community and social care. At Second Reading, the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, warned that:

“Unless expressly required to do so, government will not be honest about the mismatch between the supply and demand of healthcare workers.”—[Official Report, 7/12/21; col. 1814.]

This amendment would give an independently verified assessment of the workforce numbers to meet the growing needs of the population.

Patients who have serious, rare and specialised conditions such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, spinal injuries and all sorts of conditions need expert, specialised staff and equipment so they get the treatment they need. Otherwise, their conditions can deteriorate and result in added costs to the NHS and the taxpayer. Delayed treatment also means unnecessary pain and suffering for the patients. I hope the Government realise the need for Amendment 80.

I was surprised when I received a letter from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh telling me that, along with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, it was excluded by omission from participating in the process of helping trusts in England recruit much-needed consultants. I wonder what the reason for this extraordinary discrimination is. Does England think it is superior? These royal colleges have been contacted by multiple trusts in England seeking help to recruit the necessary surgeons but, unless this regulation is corrected, they cannot help in this process. This sharing of important selection is more important than ever at this difficult time.

The royal colleges of medicine in Scotland have a good reputation worldwide. I have a personal interest in this amendment, as one of my grandfathers trained as a doctor in Glasgow and one of my cousins trained in Edinburgh and is now a professor of microbiology. I hope the Government can rectify this lacuna in the regulations by accepting this amendment.

Photo of Lord Mackay of Clashfern Lord Mackay of Clashfern Conservative 1:45, 3 March 2022

My Lords, I am an honorary fellow of the two Edinburgh colleges and I strongly support this. It seems extraordinary that these very distinguished colleges which, as has been said, have an excellent record over many years in teaching people not only in this country but in many other countries should be excluded from playing a part in these appointments.

I also support Amendment 80 but would like to elaborate on it a little. I think Health Education England was set up, by the Act that we had before, with some degree of contention. It is a system that is supposed to help determine the future for the health service, with fairly elaborate provisions to that effect, as I remember from that Bill.

It is not at all clear to me how this assessment is going to be done. I see it has to be verified independently, in other words somebody independent of the whole system has to assess it for its accuracy. However, if you need Health Education England to do this for the medical professions particularly, why do you not need something similar to deal with the very complicated system of social care? Therefore, I think the whole system requires to be extended to cover something like Health Education England in relation to the whole area that this amendment covers. The Secretary of State sets up some kind of mechanism for report; it has to be a pretty elaborate mechanism if it is going to work. Therefore, I humbly suggest that something like Health Education England is needed to be the basis on which this assessment arises. Then, of course, you have to provide for the independent assessment of whether it was a good assessment originally. I support this amendment, but I think something more elaborate is ultimately required.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour

My Lords, I will just speak to my Amendments 111 and 168. On Amendment 111, when the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Masham, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, have already put forward the arguments, there is very little for me to say, but the exclusion of the Scottish colleges from the appointment process needs to be rectified. It is an irritant, a hold-up.

In Committee, the noble Lord said that we needed to go through consultation. That was a dreary and negative response. The Scottish colleges have done that. They have consulted and got the support of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, NHS Employers and the NHS Confederation. Surely the Minister can just accept this amendment. To simply say that there is no need for it and lots of consultation has to take place is just a ludicrous waste of time and money. This is the time to do it. He should bring an amendment back on Third Reading and be done with it. The noble Lord says that he wants to improve efficiency in the health service. I am afraid I take that with a pinch of salt, because he is just letting officials run riot around him in relation to petty, bureaucratic objections to this change.

Obviously, my other amendment is not major compared to Amendment 80, which is substantial and very important. The noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, has really put it forward with great force. Again, I think the noble Lord needs to take a more vigorous approach with the Treasury, because clearly that is where the objection to this is coming from.

My other amendment is about the terrible problem of GP distribution, or the wide variations. I am not going to tempt the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, to come in on the GP issue—but the latest figures, for 31 December 2021, show, for primary care networks in England, the huge variation in the number of GPs. In 24 of the networks, the average list of registered patients for fully qualified full-time equivalent GPs is more than twice the national average. There are five primary care networks where the average is more than three times the national average; these are often in the most deprived areas. No wonder there is an issue of burnout, early retirements and a move to part-time working.

The Government’s response so far is the targeted enhanced recruitment scheme—an incentive for GPs to go into these areas. It is not enough; a much more substantive piece of work is required, and I hope again that the Minister will come forward with a positive response.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

I shall speak to Amendment 82 in the name of my noble friend Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. I attended Second Reading and made my views felt then, but I have not been able to join the deliberations on the Bill since then because of the pressure of other Bills in your Lordships’ House.

Even I, as someone who does not know very much about medicine, know that the most urgent challenge currently facing our health service is a shortage of nurses. I have been lobbied very heavily by the Royal College of Nursing, because Amendment 82 is its number one priority. It feels that, without a co-ordinated work plan, a coherent forward view and knowledge of exactly how the situation is at the moment, it cannot possibly achieve the sorts of numbers that are needed. There were almost 50,000 vacancies before Covid, and you can imagine the pressure that Covid has put on to the NHS—extreme pressure at completely unsustainable levels, and with staff numbers that are actually unsafe. We all know this, yet Boris Johnson and the Conservatives made big promises at the last election—their manifesto made a promise of 50,000 more nurses—and instantly that number began to unravel, as it included existing nurses who do not quit. That is unclever and unsophisticated number crunching.

I do not understand why this Government will not live up to their manifesto commitments. One reason why I have not been able to speak on this Bill since Second Reading is because of all the other Bills coming through, on which the Conservatives have said that they are aiming to achieve their manifesto commitments. They are actually going rather beyond their manifesto commitments in lots of areas—but the fact is that they are picking and choosing as if from a box of sweets the ones that they prefer.

The Royal College of Nursing represents over 480,000 nurses in health and social care. These are people whose pay requests are constantly ignored—and who constantly have their pay cut; in real terms, it has reduced. Just at the point when MPs are getting very welcome extra pay, nurses hang on by their fingertips. We know that vacancies are also a huge problem, with retirement age approaching for a lot of nurses. Nurses need the certainty of planning, and I do not hear those plans coming from the Government, although this is really their job—to manage the economy and manage society in a way that benefits everybody. Clearly, if the NHS fails in any area, that does not benefit anybody at all.

I argue very strongly for Amendment 82, and I just hope that the Government wake up in time to see how necessary it is.

Photo of Lord Stevens of Birmingham Lord Stevens of Birmingham Crossbench

My Lords, I am very pleased to co-sponsor the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, Amendment 80, and to speak in support of a number of the other amendments in this group. I declare my honorary fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of GPs, and thank them and the 100 other organisations across the health and social care sector that have joined in the cross-party support that this amendment is likely to generate.

In considering how to vote on this amendment, I think it really boils down to two very straightforward questions. First, do we need regular, rigorous and independent workforce planning for health, social care and public health? The social care point, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, has just reminded us, is so crucial here. The second question is: if so, will we get it, with appropriate rigour and independence, without this amendment? I suggest that the answer to that question is, unfortunately, no.

The first question is self-evident to most people. We discussed it throughout Committee: workforce pressures mean that it is obvious that we need regular workforce planning. The very long lead times make it critical. Earlier this week, your Lordships were debating pressures in young people’s mental health services and eating disorder services. It is worth reminding ourselves that a new consultant psychiatrist specialising in eating disorders, starting work in NHS mental health services this morning, will have entered medical school 15 years ago. It is worth reminding ourselves, too, at a time when the NHS is confronting long waits for routine operations and needs to deal with a backlog of care, that the new medical student starting undergraduate medicine in September will report for duty as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon in 2037.

So the lead times are clear, yet we have a paradox: more young people and, indeed, mid-career people, would like to join this great campaign, this social movement—the health service, social care and public health—but we are turning them away. In 1945, Nye Bevan said:

“This island is made mainly of coal and surrounded by fish. Only an organising genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish at the same time.”

I suggest that, if Bevan were recasting his aphorism for today, he would say that, at a time when the NHS and social care have such a clear need for more staff, only a workforce planning system of organisational genius could turn away bright and committed young people from undergraduate medicine and other oversubscribed university places for health and other professions.

We have to accept that there will be extra costs from getting this right. The noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, was quite right to draw attention to the fact that there will be savings, including from the £6.2 billion spent in 2019-20 on agency and bank staffing across the health service. But there will be extra costs: the Royal College of Physicians has estimated that doubling undergraduate medicine places would cost perhaps £1.85 billion, which is about one-seventh of the amount that the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee identified last week as being likely to be lost from fraud and waste through the various furlough and other schemes introduced during Covid. So I think we need to put these costs in perspective.

The fact that there will be those costs gives us the answer to our second question. Of course, we need workforce planning, but are we going to get it without this amendment? I am afraid that I do not think we are. In Committee—although I shall not rehearse it—using publicly available materials, I set out the sorry history of what I described as the “wilful blindness” that has been inflicted on the health and social care sector and, indeed, on health Ministers and the Department of Health and Social Care itself, as they have sought to go about this task down the years.

The question before your Lordships is: has the leopard changed its spots? I suspect—and I genuinely sympathise with the Minister’s predicament—that he will tell us that the baton has now been passed from the Department of Health and Social Care to NHS England, so that for the first time it has the responsibility for undertaking this task, and we should be reassured by that fact. In that case, I ask him to give clear guarantees at the Dispatch Box that the proposed new powers of direction for the Secretary of State will never be used to veto or censor any independent estimates that NHS England itself puts forward, including those with a financial consequence. Indeed, I ask that he goes further than that and gives us a Dispatch Box guarantee that NHS England will be entirely free to publish, every two years, without approval, veto or censorship from either the Department of Health or the Treasury, the workforce need, demand and supply models implied in Amendment 80. If those guarantees are not forthcoming from the Dispatch Box, I think your Lordships will be entitled to draw your own conclusions.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Labour 2:00, 3 March 2022

My Lords, would the noble Lord be surprised to hear the rumours that the Treasury has prevented the Minister from responding in a positive way to this amendment?

Photo of Lord Stevens of Birmingham Lord Stevens of Birmingham Crossbench

We await insight from the Minister himself on that point; it is indeed, of course, what the chairman of the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee, Jeremy Hunt, suggested in the House of Commons. We have an immediate litmus test before us, which should help us answer the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. As your Lordships will remember, we noted in Committee the fact that, just 10 weeks before the start of the financial year, when it should have been planning 10 years out, Health Education England still did not have its operating budget for the year ahead. My understanding—I hope to be corrected by the Minister—is that, certainly, as of 10 am, Health Education England still does not have its workforce operating budget for just 29 days’ time. That is precisely because of a set of behind-the-scenes discussions—no doubt courteous, but nevertheless fervent—between the Department of Health and Social Care on the one hand and the Treasury on the other.

Health Ministers are more sinned against than sinning on this, frankly, and in that sense this amendment will strengthen their hand. I suspect that, privately, they will welcome the mobilisation of your Lordships to support their negotiating case. The very fact that Her Majesty’s Government oppose this amendment is proof positive that it is needed. We need it because we need to look beyond the end of our noses. To vote against this amendment would be to cut off our noses to spite our faces.

Photo of Baroness Whitaker Baroness Whitaker Labour

My Lords, this whole group is worthy of government action, and I support Amendments 80 and 81 in respect of speech and language therapists. The NHS Long Term Plan itself states that speech and language therapists are a profession in short supply. The Department of Health and Social Care, in its submission to the Migration Advisory Committee’s review of the shortage occupation lists, argues that speech and language therapists should be added to them because of the pressures facing these professions, particularly in relation to mental health.

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, for whose advice I am grateful, suggests that a minimum increase in the skilled workforce is required in the region of 15%. In recent years, the profession has grown by 1.7% in a year. The Government themselves recognise that they are clearly not delivering the speech and language therapy workforce that we need. No national assessment has been undertaken of the demand and the unmet need for speech and language therapy, which, I remind noble Lords, is essential for people to be able to communicate. Will the Government accept Amendments 80 and 81 or explain otherwise how they plan to improve workforce planning so that speech and language therapy is no longer a profession in too short supply?

Photo of Baroness Tyler of Enfield Baroness Tyler of Enfield Chair, Children and Families Act 2014 Committee, Chair, Children and Families Act 2014 Committee

My Lords, I will be exceptionally brief and make two very quick points, but first I need to apologise for, when I spoke earlier, omitting to mention my registered interest as a non-executive director of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

I very strongly support Amendment 80, moved so ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, and pressed so very cogently by the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, and others. It is absolutely fundamental to everything that the Bill is designed to achieve, and we will not achieve those things unless the workforce is addressed.

In relation to Amendment 111 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I say that it is so important that we have a review into the distribution of GPs in England. I was very concerned when we debated in Committee the huge variation in list numbers in different parts of the country. The biggest lists were in the most deprived areas. If you track that back to the debate we were having on health inequalities, where there was a huge consensus across the House, it is clear that we are never going to fundamentally tackle health inequalities unless we have far greater equality in things like the size of GPs’ lists.

Photo of Baroness Harding of Winscombe Baroness Harding of Winscombe Conservative

My Lords, I also support my noble friend Lady Cumberlege and Amendment 80. The noble Lord, Lord Stevens, made two points: I would just like to add a third to his argument. He argued that workforce planning needs to happen. There is no large employer of people that does not plan its workforce other than the NHS. We need to do it, and I do not think anyone in this Chamber is going to disagree. He also said that this would not happen without legislation. I will not repeat the points I made at Second Reading or in Committee, or those that he just made so eloquently.

My third point, which I would like to add, is very much addressed to my noble friend the Minister. It is that this amendment will not bring the downsize that the Treasury truly fears. This is actually an amendment of sound management that enables the NHS to manage finances and people better. While there will be more money spent on training, this is actually the way to control the costs of the ever-growing demand for health and social care. If you do not plan, you cannot control the costs. This is actually the way to do the very thing that the Treasury is most concerned about.

Far from locking in old, established ways of working, this is also the way to drive transformation because, unless we are honest about the ever-growing demand for clinicians of every profession, we will not face the fact that we will need to change the way those clinicians work together as medicine and science evolve and all of us age. This is a way to deliver the very thing that the Treasury most wants: control of the finances and transformation of our healthcare services.

With that, I add one final point, and I hope noble Lords will forgive me for repeating what I said in Committee. There is another reason why we need to do this now. Our NHS people are exhausted, and they have lost hope that we understand what it is really like on the ground for them. By passing this amendment, we will give them hope; we will show them that, collectively and cross-party, we really understand that it is they who make our wonderful, precious health and care system work, and we are committed to helping them going forward.

Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, I must declare my interests: I am a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, which is affected by Amendment 168. I am an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, president of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and an observer on the Medical Schools Council. All those organisations have a vested interest in this amendment.

Very simply, this amendment just makes sense for the future. Without it, the cost of healthcare to the nation will rack up and never come under control. The talk about people working in the NHS is a fallacy. What matters is whole-time equivalents and the competencies of those people with whole-time equivalents. While it is absolutely right to say that it might take 15 years for somebody to come through training as a specialist, what is not understood is that, as soon as people qualify, having left their undergraduate training, they are then on the job. They are learning on the job, working incredibly hard and contributing, but they do not have the competencies developed. That is what takes a long time. The modern techniques that get things done much more quickly and that deal with more patients—laparoscopic surgery having been an example—are highly skilled, but highly efficient.

We have a shortage of 1,400 anaesthetists. Without anaesthetists, you cannot have good maternity services, you cannot operate and you cannot have good emergency services. They are absolutely essential to the whole running of secondary care. Then, of course, in primary care, we have the gaps as well, so the specialist training is really important.

As well as that, this cannot be handed over to algorithms on a computer and left to IT, because of the need for personal interaction between the clinician and the patient and their family. I do not believe that this will be replaced by AI. However, many jobs performed currently will be taken over by AI, freeing up clinicians to become even more specialist competent.

Building on the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, I remind the House that poor care overall is more expensive than good care in the long term. It is a very short-term view to think that you can provide poor care; in the long term, you really do stack up debt. Stopping workforce planning will not avoid costs at all; all it will do is move the costs from one year further into the future and create bigger problems. Although I hesitate to say it, I think it will also fuel the whole litigation culture.

Amendment 80 is absolutely essential. If it is accepted by the Government, or passed by this House, then Amendments 81 and 82 would fit very neatly into the criteria against which such reports are to be written on the workforce. I remind noble Lords who might be unaware of this that the royal colleges already collect workforce data. Verification of data collected from integrated care boards and areas will not be difficult, because you will simply see how the figures match up. The figures will be reported centrally, and planning can take place. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is so straightforward; I cannot see why we want to rack up costs further by not putting it through. Vacant posts cost money, they do not save money. By putting that through, we will have more efficient appointment procedures. This is an historical anomaly which could be corrected easily.

Relying on bank staff is really dangerous. Mistakes happen much more often when staff come in who do not know the place, the team or who to call. You would never field a sports team consisting of a bunch of people brought together to play at a high level who had never played before. Yet, what we are doing in our NHS is bringing in bank staff who often do not know the hospital or the team. They do not know the strengths of the other people in the team, so they do not know to whom they can delegate. I hope that the House will approve Amendment 80 if the Government are too short-sighted to just accept it.

Photo of Lord Bradley Lord Bradley Labour

My Lords, I rise briefly to support very strongly Amendments 80, 81 and others in the group. They have already been explained eloquently, so I will not repeat those arguments. I declare my interest as an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. We have already heard about their importance, as a profession, as part of the wider allied health professionals. It is always worth remembering that allied health professionals make up a third of the total workforce.

Responding to workforce planning in Committee, the Minister stated that he shares the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay—from whom we have just heard—on the importance of

“integrated workforce planning across NHS and non-NHS employers … and that work is under way on it.”—[Official Report, 24/01/22; col. 102.]

Unfortunately, at that time the Minister did not set out what that work was. The response did not really give a great deal of hope regarding the long-term failings in workforce planning for allied health professionals in general and speech and language therapists in particular. We need to ensure that this is addressed. As we have heard, these amendments properly address the issue.

I draw particular attention to subsection (4) of Amendment 80, which clearly states that royal colleges must be consulted in drawing up the report which will be laid before Parliament on

“meeting the workforce needs of the health, social care and public health services in England.”

By that consultation, we should ensure that allied health professionals, and particularly speech and language therapists, are included. These professionals sometimes work directly in the NHS. Often, however, they work in other health settings and can be employed in those settings by the NHS. They might also work in settings such as education, the criminal justice system and other parts of the social care system, or in independent practice. They should all form part of the consultation to ensure that the plans which come forward on workforce planning are comprehensive in their nature and coverage. Therefore, these amendments are crucial to achieving this objective. I am sure that the Minister will want to give us that same assurance when he responds.

Photo of Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Deputy Chairman of Committees 2:15, 3 March 2022

My Lords, I rise briefly to support this group of amendments and to declare my interest as a fellow of the Royal College of Nursing. It is absolutely clear to me that, without the right staff in the right place, you cannot give the right care. This is the situation we are in at the moment, and we must get it right for the future. We are on an improvement trajectory, and there is an increase in the number of nurses employed in the NHS. However, this is not universal across all areas of the NHS, particularly in learning disability and mental health.

If we could get the Government to support Amendment 80, we could resolve the issue through guidance. On Amendment 81, I also speak for my noble friend Lord Patel, who unfortunately cannot be here today and who believes that an elegant solution as described by my noble friend Baroness Finlay, in terms of guidance subsuming Amendment 82 in particular, would enable directors of nursing, medicine and care to be responsible for ensuring that they have a safe staffing structure in the areas for which they commission care. That would be reported up every two years through the Secretary of State, rather than every five years, as indicated in Amendment 82. This would be a much more suitable solution.

Photo of Lord Lansley Lord Lansley Conservative

My Lords, I will intervene. I was not intending to speak but I was prompted by a recollection arising from the reference to anaesthetists by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. I recall that the Centre for Workforce Intelligence produced in February 2015 a report on the future supply and demand of anaesthetists and the intensive care medicine workforce. I have just checked the report, and it projects for 2033 that the number of full-time equivalent staff required will be 11,800, and supply will be 8,000. Therefore, in February 2015, we knew of this set of projections produced by the CWI. It said, among other things, that there should be

“a further review in the next two to three years.”

However, the CWI was abolished in 2016 and its functions were restored, I think, to the Department of Health.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevens, did not refer to this directly, but we must bear in mind the general presumption that there has never been workforce planning, although in certain respects, there has. The report on anaesthetists is only one of a whole string of reports—I could list them, but I do not need to—produced by the Centre for Workforce Intelligence before it was abolished. Their main purpose was to say to Health Education England, “This is the level of education and training commissioning you should be undertaking in the years ahead”. As the noble Lord said in Committee, it did produce a set of proposals; it is just that they were not acted upon.

I just say this: legislation may be the right way to proceed now, but let us not lose sight of what is actually required, which is for Health Education England not to have its budget cut, as happened in 2016, but to have its budget increased and for that budget to be turned into an education and training commissioning programme that delivers the numbers of trained professionals in this country that we project we will need. It is no good saying, “Oh, we’ve never had planning; we passed a piece of legislation.” I am sorry, it could be a case of legislate and forget unless the money is provided and the commissioning happens. There have been organisations whose job it was to do it—Health Education England, the Centre for Workforce Intelligence—but they were not supported, and in one case, abolished.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Crossbench

My Lords, I support Amendment 111 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, to which I have added my name, and Amendment 80 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege. On Amendment 111, I want to emphasise two points. First, GPs are and have always been the gatekeepers to the NHS. Without GPs, there is less primary care and less access to the NHS. Over 90% of patients access the NHS through their GPs and primary care. If you are unlucky enough to live in an area with a serious shortage of GPs, your access to NHS services is highly likely to be diminished and your health put at greater risk.

My second point is that it follows that a shortage of GPs is also likely to contribute to health inequalities, a topic much discussed during the passage of the Bill. In addition, this is likely to mean that you live in a place which the Government say they want to level up. So, if the Minister accepts the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, he will be helping to deliver two government objectives: reducing health inequalities and levelling up. What’s not to like? Who knows—he might even get a promotion out of it.

I turn briefly to Amendment 80, which I support and will vote for if the noble Baroness pushes it to a vote. I want, however, to emphasise two points that follow on a great deal from what the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, said. For too long the NHS has relied on buttressing its inadequate system for training home-grown staff by recruiting from abroad. Brexit and tighter immigration policies have significantly reduced this supply line. It will take long-term planning and consistency of purpose over many years to rectify the health and care workforce supply problems.

My second and last related point on workforce is that the track record of the Department of Health on long-term planning is appalling. It is not just me saying that; it was made absolutely clear in the report by this House’s Select Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS and Adult Social Care, so ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, who unfortunately, as we all know, is laid low by Covid. Those who support Amendment 80 should hear the arguments in the debate on Amendment 112, which would support its implementation. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, thought that something more elaborate than Amendment 80 was required. That may be the case, particularly for social care, but Amendments 80 and 112 complement each other. They are not rivals or alternatives; they put in place a structure thoroughly independent of government and which requires the Government then to pay attention to what has been independently provided.

Photo of Baroness Fraser of Craigmaddie Baroness Fraser of Craigmaddie Conservative

My Lords, it is clear that there remain huge and serious concerns across the House and beyond regarding how the Bill addresses the chronic staff shortages in our health and care services. I say health and care services, because as we know, the staff shortages affecting the delivery of services are not just within the NHS but felt across the board, in health, care and public health services. While this is a current and urgent issue, future workforce planning will be the single most important factor in limiting our ability to deliver the ambitions we all have for the future of health and social care and importantly, the ambitions of the Bill.

Like many other noble Lords, I have the greatest respect for my noble friend Lady Cumberlege, and if she feels that the current duties the Bill places on the Secretary of State in Clause 35 to report at least every five years are inadequate, then I urge the Government to take note. As my noble friend said when she introduced her amendment, she is not alone: at least another 100 organisations are calling for this aspect of the Bill to be strengthened. I ask the Minister today, therefore: if the Government are not planning to accept the amendment, how do they plan to address the challenges of future workforce? How will they assess the future needs of health, social care and public health services? Previous work has not quantified the workforce numbers needed and we cannot wait for another review.

I have a couple of observations on the amendment itself, which I commend in that it does require the Secretary of State to report on this wider health, social care and public health workforce, unlike the current Clause 35, which refers only to the health service. However, I sound a note of caution, because if we simply assess vacancy rates, or get into the mindset of needing to replace like for like, role and service development, which will be essential to support future health and care services as they evolve, risk being stifled, as my noble friend Lady Harding referred to.

Those who hold much of the data on health and care professionals are not only the royal colleges, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, mentioned, but also the regulators. I note that proposed new subsection (4) of the amendment does not mention health and care regulators, which I think should be consulted, in the spirit of my noble friend’s explanatory statement.

Finally, when describing the system in place for assessing and meeting workforce needs, as training and regulation are UK-wide, I hope there will be a spirit of co-operation between NHS England and the devolved nations to ensure that we are training the right people for the right roles across the UK NHS: this needs to be in any future workforce assessment as well. I also cannot understand why we do not accept that the royal colleges in Glasgow and Edinburgh can help us recruit. That seems completely bananas—that is the technical term. Will the Government accept that we cannot put workforce planning yet again into the “too difficult” box? We need to do more and go further, as my noble friend Lady Cumberlege urges. I accept there are no silver bullets, but the regular publication of independently verified projections of future demand and supply of workforce could, over time, create a sustainable model for improvement that would have a positive impact on both patient care and staff experience.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Co-Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Peers

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, on the way she introduced Amendment 80—it was masterful. I point out that she took this amendment from the right honourable Jeremy Hunt, who unfortunately failed to get it through the House of Commons. In doing so, he expressed his regret that, when he was Secretary of State, he was not able to put in place a structure such as the noble Baroness proposes today.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevens, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, have both commented that it is self-evident that we need a workforce adequate to meet the demand. To do that, we need to anticipate increasing demand, changes in demographics, population growth and changes in practice. Crucially, we need to put in place resilience to health shocks. If we do not do that, we will continue to struggle to reach the OECD average of 3.7 doctors per 1,000 people, which is reasonable. To get there, we actually need 50,000 more doctors.

However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, pointed out, this is not just about doctors. It is also about nurses and, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, it is about allied health professionals. We need to train them all in a timely way, given, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, pointed out, how long it takes to train all these health professionals.

The Prime Minister claimed in the House of Commons recently that we have 45,000 more people working in the health service than before the pandemic. Unusually, that may be true, but it was not clear whether they were full-time professionals. However, that number bears no relation to the demand. There is no point in quoting raw figures if they are not related to the rise in demand. Moreover, there are fewer GPs than before the pandemic, and that is where people’s access to the NHS begins. If someone cannot get to see a GP, they cannot get a diagnosis or a referral, and their disease gets harder and more expensive to treat. Having too few GPs is not a cost-effective strategy, so I support Amendment 111, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and also his Amendment 168.

Having too few staff means more staff leaving the service because of stress and burn-out and the realisation that staffing levels are too low to be safe for patients or staff. Staff also know that even before the pandemic bed occupancy levels were too high to allow for the resilience we need in the system, and so they leave.

The amendment also refers to social care staff and public health staff. On social care, a couple of weeks ago we talked in this Chamber about ambulance response times, and noble Lords all know that the reason why ambulances are too slow to go to patients is that they have to stand outside A&E because they cannot move their patients into A&E. A&E cannot move patients into the main hospital, and the main hospital cannot move its patients into social care because there are not enough staff and placements to give appropriate social care. That is why it is very important that the amendment covers social care staff too. The pandemic has shown us how important public health staff are. That is why that reference is there.

We know that this amendment alone will not solve the staff shortage, but without it we will never reach safe staffing levels. We will continue to have disruptive and expensive staff turnover, we will fail to reach OECD average numbers and we will certainly never tackle the backlog of procedures built up during the pandemic. For health and care staffing to be sustainable, we need a rolling plan of needs assessment and training. Without an independent assessment of the need, how can anybody possibly plan for the health and care staff that we need? It is just not possible.

As the subject of nurses has been so powerfully addressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, I shall also say something about that. I believe that Amendment 80 will serve nurses just as well as it will serve doctors and all allied health professionals. We on these will focus our votes on Amendment 80 in the hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, is reassured and will not feel the need to move Amendment 82.

Photo of Baroness Merron Baroness Merron Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Health and Social Care), Shadow Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 2:30, 3 March 2022

This powerful debate has focused on two simple truths. First, without the full team of people in place at the right time, it will not be possible to provide the health, social care and public health services we need. The second simple truth is that this will not just happen on its own. I am therefore glad to have put my name to Amendment 80, joining the noble Baronesses, Lady Cumberlege and Lady Brinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, in so doing. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, for her impactful introduction of the amendment. I share the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that this is the amendment to focus on, the one that will take us in the direction we need to go.

It is hardly surprising that the need for workforce planning has come up time and again during the passage of the Bill, and it is not going away. Workforce planning is at the core of all the plans, yet it remains unresolved and continues to cause considerable disquiet, including in the Health and Social Care Select Committee. We know this is an urgent requirement to tackle, and I hope that, even at this late stage, good sense will prevail and the Minister will be able to give the assurances that your Lordships’ House seeks.

The lack of sufficient staff, trained and able to deliver care, is the biggest issue facing the NHS and social care. Whatever claims are made about how many staff there are, they are meaningless unless posed against what is actually required. Since the Bill was published there has been universal opposition to the limited and inadequate provision in Clause 35. As my noble friend Lord Hunt noted, the Treasury’s robust resistance to publishing anything that sets out properly the gap between the number of staff required and of those in post is a badly kept secret. I regard that as short-sighted for all the reasons that have come up in the debate thus far.

It is reported that a record number of 400 members of staff are quitting the NHS every week. The United Kingdom has 50,000 fewer doctors than we need, and there are currently 100,000 vacancies. Workforce planning needs to be in place to give us the chance to assess and tackle the workforce crisis. Today we have the opportunity to put that right. As we have heard, the amendment is supported by a major coalition of some 100 health and care organisations. As my noble friend Lord Bradley said, it also takes strength from giving the opportunity to consult a comprehensive range of organisations and groups that know the reality of what is needed to run our care services. We should add our support to that.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the noble Lord, Lord Patel, for adding their support to my Amendment 81. It tackles the same problem, but from the bottom up. Without the foundation of a workforce plan, no ICB can plan anything properly, as they are required to do by other parts of the Bill. There is also the wider point that the national strategies or definitions of systems planning have no reality unless they transfer down to those who actually have to deliver the outcomes. We know that there are widespread and well-evidenced arguments in support of workforce planning. I urge the Minister to accept the wisdom and the reality of these amendments and to take the opportunity to fix a challenge that surely is not going away.

Photo of Lord Kamall Lord Kamall The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for bringing the discussion of workforce planning before the House today. Perhaps before I go further, all noble Lords will want to join me in wishing the noble Lord, Lord Patel, a speedy recovery. He definitely would have spoken in this debate if he had been able to join us. I should also say that I was particularly impressed by the double act of the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Stevens. Perhaps they will be known in future as the Morecambe and Wise of the House of Lords.

We all agree that the workforce is at the heart of our NHS and social care. It is right to ensure that we have the workforce that we need for the future to keep delivering world-class, safe and effective healthcare. Some noble Lords may not like to hear this, but I remind them that we have a record number of nurses. We continue to look at different ways of recruitment, and in response to Oral Questions I have referred to the way that we are looking at different pathways into nursing for British people. It is also a fact that we have always recruited people from overseas. Indeed, our public services were saved, post-war, by people from the Commonwealth coming to work in public services. I remind noble Lords that now we have left the EU we will no longer give priority to mostly white Europeans over mostly non-white non-Europeans. We will focus on ensuring that we have equality across the world.

I will not repeat what I have said about other issues, but if you are to have workforce growth, which we all want, it must be accompanied by effective, long-term workforce planning. That is why the department has commissioned Health Education England to work with partners to develop a robust, long-term strategic framework for the health and regulated social care workforce for the next 15 years. This includes regulated professionals working in adult social care, such as nurses and occupational therapists, for the first time.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Crossbench

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but when I listened to that last statement about Health Education England, I wondered whether he had seen the article in the Economist of 5 February, which shows that the guaranteed forward funding of Health Education England extended to less than a month ahead.

Photo of Lord Kamall Lord Kamall The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

I am grateful to the noble Lord because that was a point I was hoping to come to when I lost my line. The budget will be agreed by the start of the new financial year and, as in all previous years, following the outcome of the 2021 spending review, spending plans for individual budgets in 2022-23 to 2024-25 inclusive will be subjected to a detailed financial planning exercise, and it will be finalised in time. We have also commissioned NHS England to develop that long-term workforce strategy and the key conclusions from this work will be set out.

Clause 35 will increase the transparency and accountability of the workforce planning process. Noble Lords referred to Her Majesty’s Treasury. The department is working closely with the Treasury to deliver a bigger and better NHS and social care workforce. The spending review 2021 provides a further £23 billion for the NHS for April 2022 to March 2025 and gives a three-year settlement. It will keep building a bigger and better-trained workforce.

Noble Lords also referred to agency staff. The flexible staffing policy aims to provide sufficient temporary staff to the NHS to meet fluctuations in demand. In 2015 the Secretary of State announced the introduction of several measures to reduce the agency spend, including price caps, procurement frameworks and expenditure ceilings. These have contributed to the NHS reducing spending on agency staff by one-third, but we recognise that there is more work to be done. We also recognise that the health and social care workforces are often spoken about separately, and the department is working to integrate the two workforces, as outlined in the integration White Paper. Noble Lords will recall that, in addition, we have started a voluntary register for care staff, which we hope to move to being mandatory in due course, following a consultation to better understand the landscape of the workforce, and to look at different qualifications and make it a better career.

We know that work on long-term workforce planning at a national level will need to be replicated at a local level. Subject to the passage of the Bill, ICBs should be the vehicle to support that. To guide that work, in August 2021 NHS England published draft guidance for ICBs explaining their central role, ensuring that the health and care system has the necessary workforce to meet the needs of the populations it serves. A copy of this guidance has been laid in the House Library. In addition, the amendments on ICBs’ forward plans and annual reports will require ICBs to report on how they exercise their duty to promote education and training for the current and future workforce.

Amendment 82 refers to safe staffing. The Government are committed to ensuring that we deliver safe patient care and that there are safe staffing levels across the NHS. Safe staffing should remain the responsibility of local clinical and other leaders, supported by guidance and regulated by the Care Quality Commission. The ultimate outcome of good-quality healthcare is influenced by a far greater range of issues than how many of each staff group are on a shift, even though that is clearly important, and it is why the Government are committed to continuing to grow the workforce.

I now turn to the amendment addressing GP distribution. We fully support the intention, particularly as part of our agenda to level up and recover from the pandemic. However, the pandemic’s impact on the workforce is not yet fully understood and the system is moving to meet the impact in new ways. As a result, a review of GP distribution is likely to be premature but, as noble Lords will recall, we have opened new medical schools in areas where there has been a lack of workforce, in the knowledge that many people stay in the areas where they were trained. That is part of our plan to make sure that there is more equitable distribution. We will also use the targeted enhanced recruitment scheme to incentivise trained doctors to work in hard-to-recruit areas.

On Amendment 168, we will act on the underlying issue of underrepresentation of the royal colleges in the appointment of consultants. My officials are looking to undertake improvements regarding these regulations and what has been said is clearly common sense. Both royal colleges referred to have great reputations; many great surgeons and others have been trained there in the past—indeed, Arthur Conan Doyle studied in Edinburgh. It is important to remember that this is common sense. I assure the House that I am advised that the current regulations do not prevent trusts seeking alternative members to contribute to the consultant appointment process.

I am grateful to everyone who contributed to the debate. I hope I have given some reassurance. I hope noble Lords will recognise that I have engaged with them on a number of different issues in an attempt to close the gaps. I am afraid that, on this issue, I am unable to go much further at this stage. On that basis, I hope—perhaps in vain—that my noble friend will feel able not to press her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Cumberlege Baroness Cumberlege Conservative 2:45, 3 March 2022

My Lords, thank my noble friend very much. He has certainly gone as far as he can today; I am afraid it is not far enough. We have had informal conversations on this and I think it is no surprise to either of us that I was hoping for a great deal more. We have heard 17 speakers and the debate has taken around an hour and a quarter. It has been such an interesting debate—I always learn more in this Chamber, and I learned so much more today.

I want to thank the 17 speakers who have supported my amendment. As far as I can see, not a single one had any reservations about Amendment 80, because it is so simple. It is not groundbreaking; it simply wants a plan that people can recognise, and one that will fill the gaps in the workforce requirements according to demography and the needs of our population. The amendment is simple and clear, and it will make such a difference, not only to those working in the NHS but to the public, whom we are here to serve.

I thank all those who have taken part, particularly from my own Benches, and all the other noble Lords. I have to say, with some regret, that I have not heard anything that counters the arguments put forward. I was hoping that after Committee we might have found some common ground, but I sense that we have not. I am disappointed by that, so I seek to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 171, Noes 119.

Division number 1 Health and Care Bill - Report (2nd Day) — Amendment 80

Aye: 171 Members of the House of Lords

No: 119 Members of the House of Lords

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Amendment 80 agreed.

Amendment 81 not moved.

Amendment 82 not moved.

Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 4.01 pm.