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NHS staff shortages in England could exceed 570,000 by 2036, leaked document warns

The NHS in England needs a massive injection of homegrown doctors, nurses, GPs and dentists to avert a recruitment crisis that could leave it short of 571,000 staff, according to an internal document seen by the Guardian.

A long-awaited workforce plan produced by NHS England says the health service is already operating with 154,000 fewer full-time staff than it needs, and that number could balloon to 571,000 staff by 2036 on current trends.

The 107-page blueprint, which is being examined by ministers, sets out detailed proposals to end the understaffing that has plagued the health service for years. It says that without radical action, the NHS in England will have 28,000 fewer GPs, 44,000 fewer community nurses and an even greater lack of paramedics within 15 years.

However, the Guardian understands that the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, is playing a key role in behind-the-scenes moves by the Treasury to water down NHS England’s proposals to double the number of doctors that the UK trains and increase the number of new nurses trained every year by 77% – because it would cost several billion pounds to do that.

A senior NHS leader said: “Jeremy Hunt has been very resistant to the numbers in the workforce plan. The Treasury and Hunt don’t want numbers in it. They want it to be not very precise. They want the numbers to be projected in a different way that would be less expensive and to not commit to training specific numbers of doctors, nurses and others.

“While intellectually Hunt gets it, and emotionally he gets the patient safety argument, it seems that his priority, if the government has any financial headroom, is to use that for tax cuts or giving the army more money rather than training more doctors, nurses and speech and language therapists.

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Source: The Guardian, 26 March 2023


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