Commenting on the speech by the Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP at NHS ConfedExpo, Anita Charlesworth, Director of the REAL Centre at the Health Foundation, said:
‘The NHS is under huge pressure and while funding has increased, the extra funding is below what would be needed to make significant inroads into the long waiting lists, invest in primary and community services and put emergency care on a stable path. Over the NHS’s history, funding has increased by more than inflation and GDP. This is not unique to the UK, all high-income countries used growing prosperity to invest in health care. The government bucked that trend in the decade before the pandemic and the result was that services were stretched to the limit, with chronic workforce shortages and very high bed occupancy rates. If the NHS is to recover from the pandemic and become more resilient it will need significant resources, especially as the numbers over 85 are expected to increase by a third over this decade.
‘Funding and workforce go hand-in-hand and a long-term workforce strategy is sorely needed. Vacancies are currently at 106,000 and REAL Centre analysis shows demand for health service workers will continue to increase throughout this decade. Without further action, staffing shortages are likely to increase.
‘We need to have the workforce in place to tackle the post pandemic care backlog. But workforce issues are not a temporary problem, and we need to ensure that we secure the workforce of the future by improving recruitment and retention of staff. And that means supporting staff well-being as well as valuing staff workforce and recognising their hard work and dedication.
‘Our latest analysis of nurses’ pay shows that between 2011 and 2021, NHS nurses’ average basic earnings fell by 5% in real terms. The government has proposed a 3% pay award for NHS staff – that would be a further, real terms pay cut with inflation projected to reach 10%. NHS services can only recover if there are sufficient motivated staff in place. Unless the workforce strategy has real teeth, the cost-of-living crisis could force more dedicated professionals from the health service at a time when they’re needed most.’