NHS In Need Of Proper Workforce Planning Says BMA Chairman

As the NHS prepares for its last year of significant injections of extra money, the Chairman of the British Medical Association Mr James Johnson has called on the government to get its act together and reinstate proper workforce planning or risk wasting £millions of public money.

Speaking at a ‘State of the NHS’ press briefing, Mr Johnson said: “In 2008 the year on year significant rise in additional NHS resources will fall back dramatically to figures around the 2.5% level. Despite the extra money, NHS Trusts all over the country are in deficit, clinics cancelled, wards closed, operating theatres being under-used and staff made redundant or posts not advertised.

“At the same time we hear that the government believes that by 2010-11 we will have an excess of 3,200 consultants alongside a shortage of 1,200 GPs, and 1,100 too few junior and staff grade doctors. Not to mention a shortage of 15,000 nurses and 16,000 allied health professionals. To add to the problems we know there will shortly be a huge bulge in the number of junior doctors chasing training jobs due to the abolition of the Senior House Officer Grade. In time that bulge will feed through to fully trained doctors looking for work as consultants or GPs.

“The whole situation demonstrates an appalling lack of workforce planning. In the UK, unlike other countries, the medical schools produce doctors designed for the NHS. So if the government is producing more doctors that it can afford to employ when fully trained, it is a complete waste of public money. It costs around £250,000 to train a doctor plus many more years of specialist training. If juniors cannot secure suitable jobs in the future within the NHS they may look overseas for employment. What a disastrous waste of public money.”

Mr Johnson said in recent years there had been no effective workforce planning within the NHS. “I am calling on the government to reinstate clinician-led workforce planning and to accept that as the medical schools they are financing are producing doctors for the NHS, they have a duty to make sure the NHS jobs are available to them when they are fully trained.“

He said the BMA believed in a consultant led hospital service to make sure patients got the best possible care. Anything less than that was short changing the public. Similarly, primary care had to be led by GPs.

Mr Johnson predicted a difficult year ahead for the NHS: ”Last year I said we had two years left to save the health service before the huge sums of additional investment dried up. Now we have much less time. My offer to the government is work with doctors and other clinicians to let us help you sort out the problems.”