I have worked with countless NHS workers in my nearly three decades as a doctor. I never fail to be amazed by their dedication, their skill, their love of people and, sometimes, their bravery.
Staff levels are one of the critical issues.
- There are 50,000 NHS staff vacancies. One in 10 nursing posts are empty – nursing vacancies have risen by 50% in three years.
- For doctors, the number of vacancies rose by 60%.
- And 1 in 3 nurses in post will reach retirement age within the next 10 years.
- 1 in 12 general practice posts are vacant.
- The number of NHS mental health nurses has fallen by 15% since 2010. Locally, I’m know it’s hard for young people to access a CAMHS appointment.
The impact of this is that those working in the NHS have to work extra long hours, often unpaid, to cover the staffing gaps. Staffing gaps affect the quality and safety of patient care. Increased workload and long hours lead to exhaustion and burnout. Many staff are leaving the service as a result, adding to the staffing crisis.
Don’t they deserve to be treated with respect? Don’t our nurses deserve a decent wage? Don’t they deserve better than Jeremy Hunt?
The Conservative Government, and Jeremy Hunt, are promising that they will increase numbers, but these are empty words.
In fact his actions and those of his government have had the opposite effect.
- He has imposed a draconian pay cap on nurses meaning their pay will have been cut by 12% by 2020.
- He has removed the bursary for student nurses, meaning many people who want to train to become a nurse can’t afford to do so.
- He has treated nurses and junior doctors with contempt. Record numbers are taking time off with stress because they fear that patients aren’t receiving the care they need.
- The “hard Brexit” approach and failure to assure EU nationals working in the NHS of their future has led to thousands leaving and a 92% drop in EU nurses applying to work in UK.
- Since his announcement in 2015 of 5000 more GPs by 2020 we actually have fewer GPs now than two years ago!
Perhaps the most damning statistic is that more than half of all nurses say they are looking to quit the profession. Think about why someone wants to become a nurse in the first place and the training that go through. And then think about how bad it would have to be to want to leave that all behind. There is no point increasing nurse and doctor training places if they don’t stay in the job once qualified.
It’s a disgrace, but simple to solve. We have to offer nurses and all NHS staff a decent wage, that keeps up with inflation. We have to offer bursaries to young people who want to work in the NHS. We have to improve the conditions they work in. We have to ensure hospitals and community services have sufficient funding to recruit and retain the staff that are needed. (Read my health visiting blog here).
But, perhaps most importantly, we have to show our nurses junior doctors and other NHS staff that we value and respect them. Not with empty words, but with our actions.
You can show how much you value our amazing NHS staff by voting for me, Dr Louise Irvine of the National Health Action Party, and kicking out Jeremy Hunt.
Dr Louise Irvine
Vacancy stats: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35667939
1 in 3 nurses reach retirement age: http://www.employment-studies.co.uk/news/one-three-nurses-reach-retirement-age-within-ten-years
End of student nurse bursaries: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/21/nhs-bursaries-for-student-nurses-will-end-in-2017-government-confirms
Nurses stress and fear for patient care: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/national-hell-service-landmark-nurses-10053340