The bad planning is built into the system it seems, as successive and different administrations under ministers of health of many different persuasions have fallen into the same trap. Undercapacity. The 4 health services reports their staffing levels on different sites. It is accepted that the health services combined are the largest employer in the country, and have the highest absenteeism.
The total full time equivalent workforce is unknown as so many are actually in the GIG economy, work part time, or are part of a sub-contracted service. It is not all due to bad planning. Some blame must fall on our first past the post political system whereby no elected MP considers any problem solving with a time horizon longer than the next election. It is made worse by the largely female workforce, the part-time working, and the high sickness levels.
More than 100,000 NHS jobs are unfilled and vacancies are increasing, according to the hospital regulator.
Experts said that there was a risk of a national emergency because of “a long-term failure in workforce planning”. The figures are part of a performance report from NHS Improvement in which it said that the underlying deficit in hospitals was £4.3 billion.
Some 11.8 per cent of nursing posts were not filled between April and June, a shortage of nearly 42,000. In London, which had the highest vacancy rate, the figure was 14.8 per cent. In England 9.3 per cent of doctor posts were vacant, a shortage of 11,500.
At the end of June there was a total of 107,743 vacancies, up from 98,475 at the end of March.
Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at the King’s Fund think tank, said: “Widespread and growing nursing shortages now risk becoming a national emergency and are symptomatic of a long-term failure in workforce planning, which has been exacerbated by the impact of Brexit and short-sighted immigration policies.”
The report said that trusts had had to use bank and agency staff to ensure that posts were filled, spending £805 million on bank staff and £599 million on agency staff in three months, £102 million and £32 million over budget respectively.
Those costs were partly responsible for hospitals missing their savings target by £64 million, the regulator said, although it added that the plan had been “ambitious”.
The way vacancies are recorded has changed, but in 2008 the vacancy rate for nursing staff was 2.5 per cent and for medical and dental staff 3.6 per cent.
At the end of the first quarter of the financial year trusts in England were £813 million in deficit. The report included the sector’s underlying deficit for the first time, which reflects its financial position without taking into account one-off savings such as land sales or non-recurrent funding. That was £4.3 billion.
Sally Gainsbury, senior policy analyst at the Nuffield Trust think tank, said: “That means services were lacking the equivalent of 18 days’ worth of funding last year.”
The report said that A&E attendance was 6.23 million from April to June, 220,574 more than last year.