NHS Employers has expressed concern about recruitment policies in the NHS related to the European Union.
According to figures provided by NHS Employers, around 1000 nurses from outside of the European Union have been rejected to date by the Home Office due to immigration rules.
The organisation was keen to emphasise that legislation is compromising patient safety, with a shortage of nurses potentially crippling the NHS.
It is believed that the reluctance to recruit NHS nurses will be particularly damaging to the NHS in winter, as demand for care increases.
Although there are plans afoot to train more nurses within the UK, this policy may not reap any serious reward until 2017.
Commissioning and delivering internal training within the NHS takes in the region of four years, so there will naturally be a delay with the arrival of the next raft of Britain-based nurses.
In the intervening period, NHS Employers believes that the NHS must prioritise delivering sufficient staffing in order to ensure quality patient care.
With NHS Employers concerned about the extent to which migrant doctors are being valued, the organisation has taken the initiative to take direct action.
NHS Employers has written a letter to the Home Secretary Theresa May to outline concerns that the organisation has regarding recruitment policies.
The letter is signed and supported by many trusts across England and co-signatories include Sir Robert Naylor (UCLH), Sir Len Fenwick (Newcastle) and Sir Andrew Cash (Sheffield).
Speaking about the issue, Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers, expressed his concern.
“Hospitals strive constantly to deliver the same high standard of care to patients amid rising demands. Even with Government commitment to additional training places for nurses and a focus on retention, we need to employ staff from outside the EU to meet current demand for staff.”
Mortimer also outlined some of the problems that the NHS faces in this area.
“Due to the high demand for immigration certificates in June and July, for example, all of the applications for nurses were rejected. Whilst there was some improvement in August, with 200 certificates being issued there remains significant numbers of outstanding applications for entry to the UK to take up nursing posts in our hospitals.”
The Chief Executive concluded by outlying his belief in migrant nurses.
“Non-EU nurses are invaluable to the NHS. Whilst we are experiencing a mismatch between supply and demand we are asking that this is recognised and that nursing be placed on the shortage occupation list for the next two years.”
The issues related to recruitment could be regarded as particularly serious considering the plans of Prime Minister David Cameron to create a seven-day culture in the NHS.
This scheme of the Conservative government will no doubtless be examined closely by the Labour Opposition after the election of Jeremy Corbyn.
The NHS Employers organisation has reached agreement on a number of changes to the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) in return for a funding package of £2.8bn for 2015/16.
The agreed changes to the CPCF follow complex but constructive negotiations between all the interested parties (NHS Employers, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and NHS England).
NHS Employers and PSNC have agreed to a new advanced service for influenza vaccinations. Adult patients, aged 18 and over at the time of vaccination, who are defined in the Annual Flu letter will be able to receive their seasonal influenza vaccination at participating community pharmacies from September 2015. Funding for the flu service will be in addition to and outside of the £2.8bn.
“We are very pleased to have reached agreement with PSNC on a national influenza service”, said Felicity Cox, lead negotiator for the NHS Employers organisation. “This new service expands the role of Community Pharmacy, making better use of the clinical skills of pharmacists and delivering improved choice and access to services for people.”
Other changes include: (i) changes to the contractual framework that will in future require pharmacists to point out to patients who claim exemption from prescription charges, where no evidence is presented, that the NHS routinely checks claims for exemption and takes action whenever inappropriate claims are made; (ii) agreement to establish a joint working group to review the costs and system issues for the Electronic Prescription Service; (iii) a requirement for pharmacies to participate in a national audit that will take place in 2015/16. Further information on this will follow at a later date; and (iv) agreement to work together to develop business cases for new community pharmacy services for consideration in the 2016/17 discussions.
“The introduction of a national service for influenza vaccinations is good news for community pharmacy, the NHS and most importantly, the public”, said Sue Sharpe, PSNC chief executive. “There are many other opportunities for the NHS to benefit from developing community pharmacy and we hope to make more progress in the near future.”
A report on contract reform for both consultants and doctors & dentists in training has been welcomed by the NHS Employers organisation.
Contained in the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) report are recommendations and observations on the proposals put forward by the parties for reforming contracts for both doctors and dentists in training and consultants.
The remit for doctors and dentists in training covered England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland: for consultants, the remit covered just England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“Patients and employers want the delivery of the same high quality of care across the entire week and we welcome the report from DDRB as a key step towards achieving our ambition for seven-day services across the NHS”, said Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers. “To afford and sustain seven-day services, employers need to overcome the current obstacles that exist and, as our evidence demonstrated, we firmly believe that the removal of the contractual opt-out for non-emergency work undertaken at weekends and evenings is crucial to improving the quality of patient care.
“We are also keen to progress with reform of the junior doctor contract to ensure that it is safe, fair, affordable and flexible enough to meet the needs of patients. Both we and the BMA have been pressing for reform for several years and a new contract is urgently needed.
“The report sets a clear direction for reform which is good news for patients and we now need to work together with our medical colleagues and their trade union, the BMA, to implement the changes the Secretary of State has endorsed.”
Today’s budget in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne confirmed that the NHS will receive an extra £8bn by 2020/21 has been given a cautious welcome by healthcare leaders.
Daniel Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment and confirmation of additional funding for the NHS.
“Patients and employers want to see improved and better seven-day services, and what we urgently need to consider is the workforce and pay and contract reform required to support this, especially for medical staff.
“In continuing with the work to reform terms and conditions of service in and across the NHS, we now look forward to the publication of reports and the observations from the pay review bodies. Following publication we will be urgently seeking to speak with our trade unions, to ensure we continue to work in partnership to progress pay reforms and service improvement across the NHS.
“Our discussions will now need to be set against the context of today’s announcement from the Government of continued public sector pay restraint and we recognise that these discussions are now likely to be more difficult.”
Further comments came from Rob Webster, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, who said: “The £8bn highlighted in today’s budget document needs to come in staged increases and we would emphasise this should reflect the bigger cost pressures expected in the first half of this Parliament. There is an opportunity for a multi-year funding deal to be aligned with planning in the NHS, for example around pricing, contracting and allocations. Through NHS Employers, we will look at the impact of the budget on our workforce.
“The additional funding will also need to account for investment in transformation, to support double-running and other costs that will be needed to move to new models of care. What cannot be forgotten though is the impact that social care cuts are having on the NHS. We need urgent action to look at how we address the gap in social care funding, currently estimated at £4bn by 2020.
“We also look forward to continuing to work with the Treasury and the Department of Health in addressing these urgent questions as part of the spending review due in autumn. Through this process we hope to secure a sustainable settlement for health and care, which allows our members to get on with the bigger challenge of delivering change in service delivery, to better meet the needs of people in the 21st Century.”
Twenty-five organisations today joined forces to develop and promote equality in the NHS workplace in 2015/16.
Known as ‘Equality and Diversity Partners’, they have been selected by NHS Employers from 42 organisations which applied to be members of the partners scheme.
They will explore areas where the NHS is relatively strong, such as gender equality. They will also work together on urgent areas such as the career progress of people from black and minority ethnicity backgrounds and the employment of people with learning disabilities.
The Partners are diverse, including health trusts, clinical commissioning groups and a commissioning support unit and charities. All were selected for their innovative equality and diversity programmes.
“The NHS continues to work hard to improve the experience for all the people we employ, as well as improve access for all the communities we serve”, said Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive of NHS Employers. “Our new Partners have all demonstrated the importance to them of equality and diversity in both staff and patient experience. It’s especially encouraging to have commissioners involved, as well as a voluntary sector organisation in the Motor Neurone Disease Association.
“We have worked closely with NHS England on the development and roll-out of the nine-point workforce race equality standard (WRES) metric. Launched on 1 April, this WRES – alongside the Equality Delivery System framework – are now mandatory features of what we hope will become an effective and robust governance system for health and social care.”
A threat of industrial action by NHS staff members was ended today following an agreement by unions to accept a pay proposal that was originally made by the Government in January.
“This will be a huge relief for NHS organisations and for the thousands of patients and staff who were disrupted by industrial action”, said Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation.
“Employers do understand the anxieties of staff and urgently want to discuss sustainable ways to move away from pay restraint. This end to industrial action means we are now in a position to start those crucial discussions. Any solution will need to support better, safer and more responsive services to patients and more efficient use of NHS resources.”
Today’s decision, made during an NHS Staff Council meeting between health unions and NHS employers which sought to find a constructive national agreement on pay terms and conditions, followed weeks of balloting which eventually saw most members of staff accept the Government’s pay proposal.