NHS: Staffing Levels

Part of Cat Welfare – in Westminster Hall at 4:52 pm on 11th December 2018.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Transport) 4:52 pm, 11th December 2018

I congratulate my hon. Friend Tracy Brabin on calling this vital debate.

I remember the challenging years of the mid-1990s, when I was working as a physio in the NHS. During that crisis time, I never knew when I would get home. Today’s scenario reminds me of the dying years of a Tory Government—the parallels are so strong.

In York, I read the Care Quality Commission reports in detail, and although the care given by our NHS staff is excellent, the real challenge that I pull out of the results of CQC reports is the staffing crisis. My local hospital currently has 59 doctor vacancies, and there are 580 nursing vacancies in bands 4 to 7, 312 of which are in bands 5 to 7. The trust has done everything it can to recruit. It went to Spain and recruited 40 Spanish nurses, 37 of whom left after a very short period. The reality is that NHS staffing is in crisis and that affects patient care.

Last year, the trust had to spend £8.5 million on agency staff. That pushed a trust that is already struggling because the funding formula does not work for York into further deficit, which has an impact on its control and on the resources it can get for the winter crisis—York had some of the highest levels of influenza last year. The Minister, therefore, must ensure that the money works, as well as addressing staffing.

I want briefly to look at primary care because, as we have heard, we need early intervention across all ages to keep people out of hospital. Rightly, the Government looked to increase the number of health visitors, and by 2015 the figure was up to 10,309, but since then we have seen a 23.8% fall, down to 7,852, meaning that young people are not getting the input they need. School nursing figures have also fallen by 25% since 2010. So we have a real crisis in our primary care workforce, and also in mental health, as Dr Poulter said. Certainly we feel that in York, whether in the community or the hospital environment.