SUCCESSIVE governments have failed to ensure that the NHS recruits enough doctors and nurses and the issue needs to be addressed urgently, according to former health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Hunt is chair of the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Committee which published a report today that also found that the number of full-time GPs has fallen by more than 700 in the three years to March.
He told GB News: “The fundamental problem that we lay bare in this report is our failure as a country to train enough doctors and nurses over many years and that is because government after government has said it doesn’t matter if we don’t quite train enough doctors because we can always import them from overseas.
“The fact is that Covid was a global pandemic. Everyone’s got their Covid backlog. There’s a shortage of 2 million doctors and 50 million nurses worldwide.
“It is just time we took a decision as a country that we have the biggest health system in the world with the NHS, we’re going to train the numbers we actually need.”
He said that the NHS and the social care system have a shortage of one million workers.
“It’s actually half a million more people we need in the NHS and half a million more in the social care system, so it’s about a million all together.
“There has never been any shortage of people who want to work in these sectors. Universities are full of people who want to become doctors and nurses.
“And indeed there are people who don’t go to university who want to work in the care system and may do an absolutely brilliant job.
“We do have to pay more. It’s true that it costs £250,000 to train a doctor but if you don’t train enough, all that happens now, which is that we spend £6 billion pounds a year on locum doctors and agency nurses, because there is this big, big shortage and so we are wasting more money than then countries like France and Germany on these temporary doctors and agency nurses when we shouldn’t be and that’s why it’s just a false economy not to train enough doctors in the first place.”
Asked about why people seem reluctant to work for the NHS, he said: “What young doctors and young nurses often talk about is the intensity and the pressure of work.
“Last year, we lost half a million days to stress, anxiety and other psychiatric conditions. Those are properly diagnosable conditions.
“That’s half a million days of work from NHS staff but we also have a lot of women, a lot of people from ethnic minorities and, some parts of the medical establishment have been traditionally a closed shop for men.
“It’s been a bit like the old boys club but that has changed…but I think there are still a lot of glass ceilings in the NHS which just like every other organisation they need to get rid of.”
On problems with a shortage of GPs, he said: “What you’re getting at the moment is a vicious circle because people are becoming GPs after 10 years of training. Maybe they’re 28, 29 years old.
“They’re finding that seeing 40 patients in one day in 10-minute slots is very stressful. And then they’re actually saying ‘I just don’t want to do this every day, I think I’ll reduce it to three days or four days a week’.
“But that, of course, puts more pressure on their colleagues. The other thing that’s happening is because there aren’t enough GPs, a number of newly qualified ones are saying actually ‘I’m not going to be a salaried GP, I’m not going to be a partner, I’m just going to be a locum’.
“And they could earn more than £200,000 a year if they did that. And what they’re saying is actually I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to work three days a week, and I’ll keep my stress levels down.
“That’s what happens if you don’t train enough doctors. It’s a totally false economy and it’s time we recognise that and sorted this out.