Margaret Greenwood MP has called on the government to ‘think about those NHS staff who are working so hard and are so stretched by the amount of stress they are under because they do not have enough colleagues around them.’
The Wirral West MP was speaking in a debate in the House of Commons as MPs considered amendments made to the Health and Care Bill in the House of Lords.
She spoke in support of an amendment that would have required the government to lay a report before Parliament, at least once every three years, describing the system in place for assessing and meeting the workforce needs of health, social care, and public health services in England.
Such a report would have had to include an independent assessment of health and social care workforce numbers and the projected workforce supply for the following five, 10 and 15 years. It would also have had to include an independent assessment of future health and social care workforce numbers based on the projected health and care needs of the population for the following five, 10 and 15 years.
The Royal College of Physicians was among a group of 100 health and care organisations backing the amendment.
The Royal College of General Practitioners also supported it and has spoken recently of unsustainable pressures driving GPs out of the workforce and threatening to destabilise general practice.
Just a few weeks ago, the Royal College of Nursing said that nursing staff are exhausted and that staff shortages are undermining their efforts to give safe and effective care.
Despite strong support for the amendment from the health and care sectors and from opposition parties including Labour, the government disagreed with it and voted it down.
Margaret Greenwood MP is a long-time critic of the government’s Health and Care Bill. She has argued that it does a disservice to patients in England and to NHS staff and that, if enacted, it will embed a postcode lottery and open up the NHS to widespread privatisation.
Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “This amendment was incredibly important because it would have assisted in the planning of the health and care workforce of the future. It is a huge disappointment that the government opposed it.
“Instead, the provisions in the bill around workforce planning are weak and do not set out how many health and social care staff are needed to meet demand.
“NHS staff and care workers do incredibly important work, looking after people when they are at their most vulnerable.
“People in Wirral West have told me of their frustration with waiting times and their concerns about staffing levels in the health service. There have been warnings from senior figures in the care sector that there is a crisis because of staffing shortages.
“Members of the Royal College of Nursing have told me how staff shortages increase stress for nurses who are working incredibly hard to care for people.
“We know that demands on the NHS and care services are only going to increase.
“According to the Health Foundation, in the next 25 years, the number of people older than 85 will double to 2.6 million in England. We need to know that there will be enough doctors, nurses and social care workers to meet people’s needs.
“As the Royal College of Physicians has pointed out, without long-term projections, which the amendment from the House of Lords would have provided, there is no way to assess how changes in workforce trends, such as retirements or working part-time, will impact the delivery of healthcare.
“The Royal College of Nursing has highlighted that there is a clear evidence base showing that staffing levels have a direct impact on the safety and quality of patient care.
“The government and other Conservative MPs should have listened to the more than one hundred health and care organisations, including NHS staff, who were calling on them to adopt the amendment.”