Government plans to tackle backlog after English health services pandemic not addressed personnel crisis, according to a report by several parties, which warns that increasing pressures due to Omicron infections and ambulances could worsen the problem.
Ministers last year broke a promise from the manifesto and raised national insurance rates to generate an additional £ 30 billion for the health service over three years to reduce waiting lists and resolve the social security crisis in England.
But Jeremy Hunt, chairman of the selected Health and Welfare Committee, the parliamentary group behind the report, warned that attempts to address the backlog of 5.8 million patients awaiting routine hospital treatment in England “risk being dropped off course due to completely predictable staff crisis ”. Official estimates say waiting lists could double by 2025.
“The current wave of Omicron is exacerbating the problem, but we have already had a serious personnel crisis, with burned labor, 93,000 vacancies in the NHS and there are no signs of any plan to address this issue, ”Hunt said.
“Far from resolving the backlog, the NHS will be able to provide more than just putting out fires unless the government wakes up to the scale of the staffing crisis the NHS is facing and urgently develops a long-term plan to solve the problem,” he added.
The report comes after an increase in the Omicron coronavirus variant caused a wave of absenteeism among clinicians, squeezing the NHS workforce even further, forcing hospital trusts across England to declare a critical incident.
The committee said it was “completely unacceptable” that England’s health education budget, the body responsible for training the health workforce, remained “unresolved”, adding that it was “extremely discouraging” that no plans had been announced to increase the number of medics and nurses training. The deputies added that more needs to be done to address the shortage of staff among general practitioners and in social protection.
According to plans outlined by Health Minister Sajid Javid, HEE should merge with NHS England by 2023. However, lawmakers warned that the move could hamper the implementation of the government’s long-term workforce strategy for the NHS.
They also criticized the government for resisting an amendment to the November law on health and care that would require independent forecasts of future labor needs, adding that such assessments were necessary “to gain the trust of first-line staff”.
Sarah Gorton, head of health services at the Unison Public Services Union, said: “The pandemic has increased the pressure on health workers and many have had enough,” adding that “poor planning by the government has exacerbated the bad situation.”
“Staff have been drained by pandemic pressures,” Gorton said. “Now they’re going through another wave as Omicron grows.”
Pat Cullen, executive director of the Royal College of Nurses, said the report passed a “damn verdict on the government’s commitment to safe patient care”.
He added that this not only highlights the “current shortage” of staff, but also how many “more of them are in danger of leaving because they are losing faith in the government’s will to tackle the situation”.
The report calls on the government to develop a broader NHS recovery plan by April this year that focuses not only on elective care, but also on services including emergency care, mental health and social welfare, which were negatively affected by the pandemic. It warns that one should not rely solely on numerical targets, warning that they could “discard the priority of key services” and overlook “hidden backlogs”.
Deputies also said they saw “huge potential” in Service 111 with better resources in helping to ease the demands of the Accident and Emergency Department, which faced record high waiting times in October.
The Department of Health and Welfare said the NHS had added more than 5,000 doctors and nearly 10,000 nurses in the past year.
“The pandemic has put tremendous pressure on the NHS, but we are committed to supporting hard-working staff to ensure people get the treatment they need,” a spokesman said.