NHS: Staffing Levels

Part of Cat Welfare – in Westminster Hall at 5:31 pm on 11th December 2018.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 5:31 pm, 11th December 2018

I am listening carefully to my hon. Friend, and I will ensure that that work is undertaken.

As I have said today and on previous occasions, the priority is to get more nurses on our wards. There are currently 52,000 nurses in training, and we have announced a policy change that will result in additional clinical placement funding to make 5,000 more training places available each year. My hon. Friend made the point that nursing bursaries were not always the panacea that everyone suggests; students on the loans system are at least 25% better off than under the previous system. However, we recognise that students incur additional costs as a result of attending clinical placements, so we have introduced a learning support fund with a child dependants allowance, reimbursement of travel costs and an exceptional hardship fund. When I spoke to nurses at Barts last week, I listened carefully to the points they made about the need for help with travel in particular, and I am looking carefully at that issue.

The hon. Member for Batley and Spen raised the RCN proposal. Yesterday, as I had promised I would, I responded to the RCN in a formal letter to Dame Donna, and I look forward to meeting her to discuss her proposals in the near future—hopefully the very near future.

We are increasing the number of midwifery training places by more than 3,000 over the next four years. There continues to be strong demand for nursing places, with more applicants than places, but I am under no illusions, nor am I complacent. We need more people applying and we need to increase that route. A number of routes are open. HEE’s programme covers all fields of nursing; its RePAIR—reducing pre-registration attrition and improving retention—programme explores effective interventions to ensure that people are supported through their whole student journey from pre-enrolment to post-qualification.

The hon. Member for Batley and Spen was right to mention the number of new routes into nursing. In particular, she will have noted the report published last week by the Select Committee on Education on the nurse degree apprenticeship. We are working with the Department for Education to carefully consider the Committee’s recommendations and I will respond in due course.

I want to turn to the story of doctors. In the NHS today, it is true that there are 18,200 more doctors in trusts and CCGs than there were in 2010. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich raised the matter of the additional 5,000 doctors. This year, we have recruited 3,473 GP trainees, against the target of 3,250. That is an increase on last year, but we are determined to meet the commitment of 5,000. To ensure that that is possible, we have rolled out an extra 1,500 medical school places. By 2020, as he knows, five new medical schools will be open to deliver that expansion.

In the whole of this discussion, it is only right that I recognise that the Government value the professionals. It is key that we ensure that NHS staff are well remunerated. It is absolutely right that we have given NHS staff a well-deserved pay rise. All staff will receive a 3% pay rise by the end of 2018-19.

There is a lot more I might have said. The hon. Member for Batley and Spen raised a number of local issues, including ambulatory care. If she cares to write to me or to catch me, I would be happy to have a longer discussion with her. I thank her and all hon. Members for the points they have made in the debate. I also stress, as I have done today to staff at North Middlesex, and last week, that making sure that we have an NHS long-term plan that sets out a strategy for the NHS and ensures a sustainable supply of clinical workforce—doctors, workers and others—is key, and it is key to delivering our ambitions for the NHS. I thank the staff for all that they do.