The House of Commons health and social care committee has announced an inquiry into NHS workforce recruitment, training and retention.
The committee will examine whether the training period for doctors could be reduced, and if the cap on medical places for students could be permanently removed.
Committee chair Jeremy Hunt – who has recently been open about his failure as health secretary to increase GP numbers by a promised 5,000 by 2020 – said the inquiry will ‘look in detail at every aspect of staff training, recruitment and retention to help make the momentum for change unstoppable.’
He said: ‘Welcome though the new funding for the NHS is, without staff to spend it on we risk disappointing patients and demoralising staff.’
The committee is seeking views on:
- The key steps that must be taken to recruit the necessary extra staff across the health and care sectors in the ‘short, medium and long-term’
- How to ensure plans for recruitment are adaptable for the future
- The right balance between domestic and international recruitment of health staff
- How the Government can assist the recruitment of staff from other countries, with trusted training programmes
- Potential changes to ‘initial and ongoing’ training of health and care workers to maximise the number of staff
- Is there an ‘adequate system’ to establish how many doctors, nurses and allied health professionals should be trained in the long-term?
- Updating curriculums to ensure health staff have ‘the right mix of skills’
- Potentially reducing the training period for doctors
- Potentially scrapping the cap on the amount of medical places
- Driving factors causing staff to leave the health and care sectors and what can be done to combat them
- Specific roles and geographical locations where recruitment and retention is particularly bad, and potential solutions to this
- What needs to be in the next NHS People Plan to address ‘the recruitment, training and retention’ of staff
- Whether contractual and employment models used in the health and social care sector are ‘fit for the purpose of attracting, training, and retaining the right numbers of staff with the right skills’
- The role of ICSs in securing and keeping staff with the right mix of skills for local health and care organisations
Evidence can be submitted until 19 January.
The news comes as Mr Hunt saw his proposed workforce amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill voted down by MPs in the House of Commons yesterday.
The amendment would have required the health secretary to publish a report detailing the system for assessing and meeting the workforce needs for health services in England every two years.
The report was to include an ‘independently verified assessments’ of ‘current and future workforce numbers required to deliver care to the population in England’ for the following five, 10 and 20 years.
It was backed by more than 60 healthcare organisations, expert thinktanks and influential charities, and received cross-party support.
However, the amendment was defeated by 280 votes to 219 in the House of Commons, meaning it will not form part of the upcoming Health and Care Bill.
Responding to the outcome, BMA council deputy chair Dr David Wrigley said it was ‘deeply disappointing that the Westminster Government has squandered this opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to safe staffing in the NHS’.
He said: ‘The Health and Care Bill as it stands falls woefully short of detail on workforce planning and this amendment, supported by many influential and expert organisations, would have held the Government to account – ensuring it regularly assessed how many doctors we need now and in the future.’
He added: ‘There are 93,000 overall staff vacancies in the NHS, including a critical shortage of nurses, doctors, and midwives among other colleagues. Additionally, the BMA estimates that the NHS in England needs an additional 50,000 doctors to care for patients and provide safe care; the Government must understand the scale of this challenge and meet it with appropriate action.’
It comes as health secretary Sajid Javid said that the Government will ‘wait and see’ where it gets to with the number of GPs by its target year of 2025.
Mr Hunt is also leading an inquiry into the future of general practice.