Ministers ‘playing dangerous game’ with NHS workforce plan delay

ministers ‘playing dangerous game’ with nhs workforce plan delay


A nursing union has warned that the Government is “playing a dangerous game” with the delay to the long-awaited NHS workforce plan.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said nursing numbers are plummeting and waiting lists are soaring while the delay continues.

The RCN said a review of NHS England/Digital data paints a picture of targets being missed and patients being failed, with record numbers of patients on waiting lists, people waiting hours in A&E, and tens of thousands of vacant nursing posts.

The review by the RCN revealed that in acute settings in England, more than 1.5 million more people waited more than four hours in A&E in 2022 compared to 2011.

In the same period, the union said the NHS elective care waiting list has grown by 169% – in 2011 an average of 2.53 million patients were on waiting lists compared to 6.79 million in 2022.

The data also shows waiting lists were continually growing even before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the RCN.

At the same time, nursing vacancy rates since 2017 have remained stubbornly high.

The RCN said that according to the latest data, there are more than 40,000 nurse vacancies in the NHS in England.

Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary and chief executive, said: “The crisis in the nursing workforce is leaving patient care at risk and the immense pressure could risk the collapse of health and care services.

“Ministers are playing a dangerous game by delaying the long-awaited NHS workforce plan – we simply cannot wait any longer.

“But the workforce plan won’t be the end of the story. Our assessment confirms the fact we need investment right across health and care services – without that patients will continue to lose out.

“Some of the most vulnerable are stuck in hospital, partly because of under-investment in social care and more than a decade of declining community nursing numbers.

“The knock-on effect in hospitals is disturbing, with four-hour plus waiting times increasing 16-fold between 2011 and 2022.

“This catalogue of issues must be addressed urgently, or many people will continue to go without the care they need.

“No more delays, the Government needs to deliver.”

The NHS workforce plan for England aims to address the chronic staff shortages and show a path towards fixing the country’s healthcare problems.

It was expected to include verified forecasts for the number of doctors, nurses and other professionals needed to maintain the workforce over the next five to 15 years.

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