The NHS Long Term Plan is impossible without increased staffing – NAO report released today

Press release on behalf of Keep Our NHS Public – for IMMEDIATE use

A report released today from the National Audit Office highlights how the scale of NHS vacancies and a historic lack of funding has led to a situation which is not sustainable.

The recently released NHS long term makes no effort to address the 100,000 NHS vacancies which some have publicly referred to as a “national emergency” and it is difficult to see how any positive initiatives will thrive against a backdrop of a recruitment and retention crisis.

The NAO states:

“There is a risk that the NHS will be unable to use the extra funding optimally because of staff shortages. Difficulties in recruiting NHS staff presents a real risk that some of the extra £20.5 billion funding will either not be used optimally (more expensive agency staff will need to be used to deliver additional services) or will go unspent as even if commissioners have the resources to commission additional activity, health care providers may not have the staff to deliver it...significant internal and external risks remain to making the [long term] plan happen. These risks include: growing pressures on services; staffing shortages; funding for social care and public health…”

Some underspending by trusts has been linked to making efficiencies from vacancies, but this is a phantom figure as the vacancy rate is not sustainable:

“The overspends by trusts and CCGs were broadly offset by the underspend by NHS England. In 2017-18, NHS England’s underspend included: £962 million from non-recurrent central programme costs, including efficiencies from vacancies…”

The effect therefore of recruiting the required number of posts without the level of funding needed to do so will have a significant effect on a service that is already suffering the culminative effects of 9 years of government underfunding. The costly and wasteful policy of outsourcing to the private sector must end in order to conserve essential funds. Our Co-Chair Dr Tony O’Sullivan says:

“The NHS must be funded again at levels comparable to our main neighbours like France and Germany. We must stop the £5-10bn wasted annually on marketing, contracts and competition. The NHS must return to the ethos of a publicly provided service, with professional collaboration putting patients first. With business values uppermost and an abandonment of any responsible workforce strategy, the government has let patients and NHS staff down.”

Last month Keep Our NHS Public researched the figures related to government underfunding and they show an overall shortfall in annual budget from 2010 as >£25bn

THE NAO estimates that £700m is what would be necessary to restore the surgical waiting lists to the level of last March, but trusts have said that even with additional funding this target is largely unobtainable due to difficulties in recruiting staff.

Since 2010 any funding injection has not been nearly sufficient to account for historic underfunding and is merely utilised on spending for current pressures. Both the NHS, (and indeed social care which is inextricably linked), must be sufficiently funded and staffed if we are ever to see a return to a well-functioning and truly sustainable health service.