NHS Employers promises improvements after MPs condemn poor workforce planning

NHS Employers has pledged to improve future workforce planning in the NHS following a damning report by MPs.

The Health Select Committee’s report, Boom and Bust in the NHS, said little thought was given to long-term planning as managers strived to hit “demanding” government targets.

The report said huge rises in workforce numbers had been followed by redundancies, cuts to training and recruitment freezes.

Sian Thomas, deputy director of NHS Employers said: “The recommendations in the report will come as no surprise to employers. The NHS is working hard to improve workforce planning and employers are already acting on many of the committee’s suggestions.”

Between 1999 and 2004, nursing numbers increased by more than 67,000 – 340% in excess of original targets. During the same time, GP numbers swelled by more than 4,000 – double the initial target.

But Thomas called those increases “long overdue”.

“As little as five years ago we were facing severe shortages across the professions which were threatening services to patients. Supply of staff and demand for staff are now much more closely aligned and we need a period of stability,” she said. “Workforce planning has always been a huge challenge in healthcare.”

The report concluded that workforce planning should remain the responsibility of strategic health authorities – the regional bodies that oversee hospitals and local health trusts.

Thomas agreed it was “crucial” that employers were able to shape local plans to get the workforce the NHS needs.

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