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 am going to continue.

The trust is doing everything it can to recruit, but it is impossible to recruit because the national pool of mental health staff is far too small. Therefore, it is vital that we consider the solution, which comes down, as has been said, to workforce planning. We need a partnership approach to planning the workforce. We need to understand the changing demographics and the increasing mental health challenges in order to put the right planning in place, but trusts will not be able to recruit unless the staffing framework is right. The removal of the bursary scheme has been seriously detrimental, particularly to the recruitment of mature students into nursing. People are giving up a job, but their staying in the profession for longer will pay dividends. Students have to pay to travel to placements, and I remember what that was like, so it is really important that they have bursaries.

Secondly on workforce planning, we need to look at how we educate healthcare professionals across the board. I remember discussions at a national level with the trade unions on that very issue, about needing to find a different way. In some countries they bring a real foundation into NHS training so that everyone works together in the first 18 months or two years of their training and has a breadth of understanding of medicine before going off to specialise. We, instead, train in traditional old silos of jobs that have clearly blended over the years, and we must look once again at how we structure that.

Thirdly, we need to look at the “Agenda for Change” package. There is no doubt that it is hard to recruit because people are poorly paid in the NHS and can be better paid elsewhere. Given the stress levels and the antisocial hours that people work, we need to look once again at the remuneration of our NHS workforce. Finally, the knowledge and skills framework has consistently been underutilised by the Government and NHS employers, and it is vital that we go back to that framework of professional development in the NHS.