NHS: Staff

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered at on 25 February 2019.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps he is taking to reduce the number of agency workers and increase the number of permanent staff in the NHS.

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

The Department recognises that staff vacancies are among the biggest drivers of agency use in the National Health Service.

The NHS Long Term Plan, published on 7 January 2019, sets out a vital strategic framework to ensure that over the next 10 years the NHS will have the staff it needs so that the NHS workforce has the time they need to care, working in a supportive culture that allows them to provide the expert compassionate care they are committed to providing.

My Rt. hon. the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has commissioned Baroness Dido Harding, Chair of NHS Improvement, working closely with Sir David Behan, Chair of Health Education England, to oversee the delivery of a workforce implementation plan. This will include proposals to grow the workforce, consideration of the additional staff and skills required, building a supportive working culture in the NHS and ensuring first rate leadership for NHS staff.

The Government is already increasing nurse training places by 25%, with 5,000 additional nurse training places available every year from September 2018. Additionally, in 2018, up to 5,000 Nursing Associates commenced training through the apprentice route and the Department has a commitment to train up to a further 7,500 in 2019. The Government also made a commitment to have 5,000 additional doctors in general practice. The Department has started to roll out an extra 1,500 medical school places for domestic students, with the first 630 places taken up in September 2018. By 2020, five new medical schools will have opened to help deliver the expansion.

We are also working with NHS Improvement to implement a number of measures to reduce agency expenditure with a particular focus on building trust bank capability, so that vacant shifts can be, where possible, filled by existing NHS staff. As a result of this work, total agency expenditure across NHS trusts in England has fallen from a peak of £3.6 billion in 2015/16 to £2.4 billion in 2017/18 – a £1.2 billion reduction. The Secretary of State has made it clear that he wants to do more to drive down agency spend, and we are committed to embedding a ‘bank first’ approach across the NHS.

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