A House of Lords committee suggests that the NHS system is overly reliant on overseas workers, and that there could be significant staff shortages within the healthcare system following Brexit.
There has been a shocking lack of long-term planning, according to peers within the Lords.
And this threatens hospitals and services becoming overwhelmed by demand.
The House of Lords Select Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS suggests that the government has been guilty of a short-sighted approach, and that the preceding Labour government was equally culpable.
Reporting on the matter, the committee suggests that the healthcare system is in a dire situation.
“Our NHS, our ‘national religion’ is in crisis and the adult social care system is on the brink of collapse. We are concerned by the absence of any comprehensive national long-term strategy to secure the appropriately skilled, well-trained and committed workforce that the health and care system will need over the next 10 to 15 years”.
There is also a lack of foresight amid government policy according to the commission.
“We are concerned by the absence of any comprehensive national long-term strategy to secure the appropriately skilled, well-trained and committed workforce that the health and care system will need over the next 10 to 15 years. In our view this represents the biggest internal threat to the sustainability of the NHS”.
One of the particular failings of both the existing Conservative government and previous Labour administration has been the paucity of recruitment of home-grown workers.
This has left the healthcare system dependent on foreign staff, and ultimately particularly vulnerable after the recent Brexit decision, according to the House of Lords committee.
“Workforce strategy has been poor with too much reliance on overseas recruitment. The government should outline its strategy for ensuring that a greater proportion of the health and social care workforce comes from the domestic labour market and should report on progress against this target.”
Peers go on to warn that public confidence in the NHS is diminishing, due to what the report describes as a culture of short-termism.
In order to address the problems in the healthcare system, the report suggests that an insurance-based scheme, beginning in middle age, should be adopted.
This would be similar to existing models utilised in nations such as Japan and Germany.
But a Department of Health spokesman appeared to pour water on this particular suggestion, indicating that the current model of NHS care will continue into the future.
“We are totally committed to an NHS, free at the point of use, providing world-class care – and we agree that means taking decisions to ensure the sustainability of the service in future.”
Commenting on the report, Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, suggested that the Lords are absolutely correct in their assessment, citing problems with pay restrictions in nursing.
“One in three nurses will retire in the next ten years and, unless a meaningful strategy is set, the Government is allowing a time-bomb to tick underneath the profession,” Davies suggested.
While Candace Imison, from the Nuffield Trust, concurred that the NHS faces a major staffing crisis.
“Whereas the financial difficulties can largely be solved by increased funding, the loss of the experienced, highly trained staff who are currently leaving the health service in droves cannot be easily reversed. Shortages of staff have been exacerbated by years of bad planning, and are set to be worsened by the UK’s imminent departure from the European Union.”