NHS Confederation has indicated its belief that there is an onus on government ministers to address mounting disquiet among NHS staff regarding pay and recruitment.
Indeed, the authoritative organisation suggests that a full-blown staffing crisis is on the cards if the government fails to satisfactorily respond.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of NHS Confederation, spoke out on the issue at a time when it is predicted that 2,000 European-born doctors could leave the NHS system owing to concerns over Brexit.
Writing in The Guardian newspaper, Dickson suggested that nurses complaining about the capping of pay increases are justified in their perspective, and called on the government to rethink the effects of stagnating pay on staff morale.
“There may now be a case for looking again at pay. Given the financial and demand pressures on the service in recent years, some pay restraint has been necessary and inevitable. But it is also obvious there will be a limit on how far this can be taken before it affects recruitment and morale.”
Interestingly, the chairman of the NHS Confederation is Stephen Dorrell, a former Conservative health secretary.
Just days ago, the Royal College of Nursing announced that nearly 80% of its members backed strike action over pay, with over 90% favouring industrial action of some sort.
And Dickson highlights this survey as being indicative of a wider malaise within healthcare staffing.
Nearly a quarter of NHS trusts now have a vacancy rate for registered nurses of more than 15%, Dickson notes.
And specialties such as psychiatry face a particular challenging task in order to fill training places and vacant posts.
This is only likely to exacerbate given the greying population and its resultant demographics.
Today, Dickson believes that some areas of the country are finding it extremely difficult to recruit doctors effectively, with hospitals being propped up by trainees as consultant posts are impossible to fill.
The Royal College of General Practitioners believes that staff problems will be exacerbated as EU-trained doctors ultimately return home following Brexit.
Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, recently spoke out on the problem.
“We risk losing well over 2,000 family doctors from the NHS if their position is not secured as part of Brexit negotiations, and that is just not safe or acceptable. Our greatest fear is that hardworking, dedicated doctors from EU countries will simply cut their losses and leave, instead of waiting to have their fate determined for them. This would be a disaster for patient care, and it also makes long-term workforce planning for GP practices impossible.”
The Labour party has ensured that the NHS is a major talking point of the general election, with Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health secretary for the party, indicating that it will end pay caps for public sector workers, including healthcare staff.
“The NHS should be an absolute priority in the Brexit negotiations. The Tories’ chaotic approach to workforce management in the NHS has already left us thousands short of the number of GPs we need, and we simply can’t afford to lose the 2000 European GPs working here. Labour are pledging…to guarantee the rights of EU citizens working in our health and care system.”