“… The health secretary warned that the NHS would “fall down” without 150,000 EU citizens working in hospitals and communities across the country, saying he would use his conference speech on Tuesday to try to offer people reassurances.
Asked if the NHS was properly staffed – amid warnings of a crisis and the recent revelation that two junior doctors were left in charge of 436 patients at Derriford hospital in Plymouth – Hunt said it was not.
“No, we’ve got to do a lot better,” he said. ”Workforce planning has been woeful for a very, very long period of time.”
He said that health secretaries, including himself, had been too short-termist in their approach to the NHS, as he revealed his centrepiece announcement for a 25% increase in nurse training places from next year. Hunt said the rise was the biggest in the history of the NHS and there would also be more places available through the apprenticeship route. …
…Speaking about health, Hunt admitted that staffing was a significant issue as he reached out to EU citizens not to leave the UK.
“We want them to stay and we’re confident they will be able to stay with broadly the same rights as now,” he said, adding that the European workers were hugely valued and needed in an uncertain time. “We certainly can’t afford to lose them.”
He argued that more could be done on the issue of pay outside the basic salary, with plans to pilot a new app through which health workers could take on additional hours at short notice. Affordable homes built on NHS land would have to be first offered to health workers, he said.
… Admitting that the NHS was not properly staffed, amid warnings of serious strains, Hunt explained what he believed had been a key part of the problem.
“It has been a mistake made by successive health secretaries in all parties, that when you’re faced with a choice: do you put money into training more doctors and nurses [who] won’t come out of training in a nurse’s case for three or four years, or a doctor’s case six or seven years – or do you put the money into more cancer treatment today?
“Inevitably people take the decision to spend it on immediate priorities, even if it is not the right thing for the long term of the NHS.”
Hunt admitted that the party had to act on widespread concerns about public sector pay, many of which were raised during the election campaign, including by lifting the pay cap. But he admitted that could mean a challenge elsewhere for the NHS budget.
Hunt said properly resourced staffing was the priority for the health service but, asked where the money would come from, he said: “There is a big discussion to be had about that.”
He said the Tories’ biggest challenge was to take on Labour’s arguments, saying his party was ready to improve funding to the NHS and that services were improving despite challenging demographics.”
Actually, the choice was: do we put more money into training doctors and nurses or do we employ them from other countries and save on the cost – the money WASN’T put into better cancer care OR better social care – the money wasn’t there and never has been.