By Joe Harker
Staff shortages in the NHS in England have been described as a "national emergency" by the BBC. They report that one in 11 posts is vacant and the shortage of staff is particularly bad among nurses. Government ministers and NHS managers have made attempts to bring on more staff with new pay deals and recruitment campaigns but their efforts have not succeeded in ending the shortage of staff.
The latest figures for the NHS staff show that they have a shortage of 42,000 nurses, 11,500 doctors and need 108,000 more staff overall to make up the shortfall. Spending on temporary staff has increased in an attempt to plug the gaps, though the NHS is now going over budget in that area as a result.
One of the most concerning figures from the latest information is the number of vacancies for nurses in the NHS has risen by 17 per cent in the last three months.
Hospitals are failing to meet targets on waiting times at A&E and for planned operations. Many of the staff are also overworked and struggling to cope with increased pressure. Even worse for NHS England is the £4.3 billion budget deficit with projections of losing another £519 million this year.
Part of the reason the NHS is losing so much money is because of the amounts paid to agencies for temporary staff, who are filling 80 per cent of nursing vacancies. The more vacancies there are the more the NHS has to spend on temporary staff to cover the shortages. In April, May and June it cost the NHS £1.4 billion to pay agencies for temporary staff.
The Guardian reports that a "hostile environment" is making the staff shortages worse. The Royal College of General Practitioners appealed to the government to make it easier to recruit medical staff from abroad. Doctors have urged the government to take drastic action to avoid missing targets on bringing in more staff. The government had pledged to recruit 5,000 more doctors by 2020 but looks set to miss this target and end up with fewer working for the NHS.
Others in the NHS are criticising a "botched Brexit" for leaving migrant health workers with no certainty that they will be allowed to live and work in the UK in the future. There is a record demand for NHS services and waiting lists are at the highest point for a decade.
Matt Hancock, the new Health Secretary, is launching a new plan to give NHS workers the chance to tell the government what they think. He intends to give over three million people a new digital platform to tell the government where they are going wrong and suggest ideas to fix the myriad problems facing the NHS. He may want to prepare himself for long lists of issues.