Action needs to be taken to address the continued unrest among NHS staff or the health service could find itself facing a full-blown staffing crisis, a senior hospital boss has warned.
Delivering a stark warning about the future of the UK’s healthcare system Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said there was the very real possibility that unless measures are taken to improve pay, recruitment concerns, and conditions staff could flee the NHS in the coming years.
Writing on The Guardian website Mr Dickinson warned: “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.”
Addressing concerns about predictions from GP leaders that thousands of European-born doctors could leave the UK over uncertainty caused by Brexit Mr Dickinson added that the “plight of EU nationals working here” needed to be dealt with “quickly and effectively”.
He wrote: “Finding frontline nurses to staff wards is a common problem with time wasted trying to fill rotas and, in spite of some heroic efforts, too much money spent on agencies and locum staff, with the NHS continuing to spend £250 million per month on agency staff.
“And unless we deal quickly and effectively with the plight of EU nationals working here and sort out our future policies on migration, the shortages will become more serious.”
The warning comes just months after union leaders were angered by the March announcement that health workers – including doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives – would only receive a 1% pay rise.
Government officials said the pay decision was made after recommendations from Pay Review Bodies (PRB) for increases in the coming year and said it was “pleased” to offer the salary increase.
A subsequent House of Lords Select Committee report focusing on the long-term sustainability of the NHS acknowledged that health workers looked set to face a “prolonged period of pay restraint”.