The National Health Service, UK’s public healthcare system, is reportedly experiencing the ‘greatest’ staffing crisis ever recorded, putting patients at a greater risk of harm, a committee of MPs has warned.
In a report by the Commons health and social care select committee, the lack of a reliable government strategy has been pointed out regarding the understaffing of the NHS. It has also criticized ministers for postponing a blueprint that the committee believes is urgent for addressing the wide gaps in each area of care.
The report also included proof that the crisis in England is worse than what official figures indicate.
While NHS Digital claims that there are vacancies for 8,016 doctors and 38,972 nurses in the service according to the Nuffield Trust in the report, the real figures can be as high as12,000 and 50,000.
Jeremy Hunt, committee chair and former health secretary, said that the NHS and the social care sector are facing the greatest workforce crisis in their history, with no idea how many nurses, doctors, and other professionals are needed.
The report stated that the continuing understaffing at the NHS is posing a threat to patient and staff safety, in routine as well as emergency care, which is more costly, as emergency patients deal with serious illnesses.
The MPs added that the issue poses a great patient safety risk, especially in maternity services, citing how the NHS England lost 552 midwives between March 2021 and March 2022, when it already requires 2,000 additional midwives and 500 obstetricians.
Meanwhile, the MPs have praised the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for making headway in delivering extra 50,000 nurses by 2024, which Boris Johnson had pledged to do back in 2019.
Among the various recommendations for action, the MPs have called for the Treasury to reconsider the rules regarding doctors’ pension, that has been causing many experienced medics to either work less or quit.
A spokesperson from DHSC said that the agency has commissioned NHS England for building a long-term workforce recruitment plan for supporting NHS and delivering high-quality, safe care to patients.