The Public Accounts Committee has called on the Government to do more to support the health and social care workforce to ensure its resilience going forward. The recommendation has come as part of a report into the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the report, the Committee has raised a number of concerns with how the government has tackled Covid-19. On workforce, the report notes that the NHS was carrying 40,000 nursing vacancies and 9,000 medical staff vacancies going into the pandemic and that as of last September, over a third of nurses were considering leaving the health service. It has said that the government cannot wait for its inquiry into the pandemic to learn important lessons.
The report states: “The pandemic has compounded pre-existing challenges in the health and social care sectors… Longstanding staffing issues and backlogs, arising from failures in workforce planning and recruitment, have exacerbated the impact of the pandemic not only on the public, but also on the health workforce. NHS and frontline workers, already under pressure before the pandemic, have had to deal with the mental and physical strain of the response and are now tackling backlogs whilst carrying high numbers of vacancies.
“The NHS estimated in December 2020 that it had nearly 89,000 full-time equivalent vacancies across secondary care settings in England. We are concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of key workers and burnout levels, which may result in more individuals leaving the medical profession and even higher vacancies rates going forward. This makes the publication of the long overdue NHS People Plan even more urgent.”
The Committee has recommended that:
- The Department for Health and Social Care should write to the Committee by November setting out what it is doing to provide support to NHS staff, what metrics it is using to track the effectiveness of the measures adopted, and how it is performing against those metrics.
- By the end of the year, DHSC should write to the Committee to provide an update on the substantive long-term NHS workforce plan to ensure the resilience of the health and social care workforce.
Liaison Workforce Commercial Director, Laurence Ansell, responds: “It is important that the government is held to account in their handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, but with vacancies increasing all the time across the NHS, a robust strategy for improving the wellbeing of those staff still in place is essential to slow the tide.
“Staff wellbeing should be at the forefront of all Trust workforce strategies, and we would be happy to discuss possible solutions from our mii Platform to help achieve objectives of staff retention and improving wellbeing levels. From improving the user experience for rostering to providing essential tools for flexible working to promote better work/life balance, all of the solutions from the mii Platform have been developed with the end user in mind, the staff, in order to make their working lives easier.”