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THE extent of the NHS staffing crisis was exposed yesterday after Labour discovered that 100,000 posts have gone unfilled, warning that patient safety is under “urgent threat.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Tory mismanagement of the NHS has been a “disaster” for patients and staff as new research shows one in 10 posts in England’s health service are vacant.
He said the government must take urgent steps to ensure patient safety as pressure mounts this winter on a service struggling to cope with increasing demand.
Labour research, based on Freedom of Information (FOI) requests from 82 NHS Trusts in England, found that there are 40,000 nursing vacancies in England, a rise of 12.2 per cent from last year.
And the NHS has a shortage of 12,000 nursing support staff along with 11,000 vacancies in scientific, technical and therapeutic staff.
Mr Ashworth placed the blame of the recruitment crisis at the government’s feet, claiming cuts, the public-sector pay cap and scrapping the NHS Bursary have deterred people from entering the service.
Figures showed a 9 per cent rise in the total NHS vacancy rate from last year.
The government published a draft Workforce Strategy last week but won’t be releasing the full report until next summer.
Labour argues that immediate action must be taken to address the shortages before more money is wasted on agency staff.
An astonishing £3 billion has been spent on temps to plug the shortages.
Mr Ashworth MP said: “Tory mismanagement of the NHS workforce has been a disaster for staff and patients alike.
“For years the government has failed to ensure enough new recruits coming through in key specialities, while failed policy decisions like the NHS pay cap and the ending of the NHS bursary have contributed to a growing crisis.
“What’s more, trusts are having to spend £3bn a year on temporary staff to plug the gaps, meaning money that should be going to front-line services is going on agency fees instead.
“There is now an urgent need for a sustainable, fully funded plan to get the right numbers of staff in place to keep patients safe.
“Labour’s research today has shown that NHS workforce shortages in key areas are continuing to get worse year on year — ministers must take action before it’s too late.”
Fears are also growing of a “perfect storm” brewing and an impending winter crisis.
Last month regulator NHS Improvement warned that wards are still packed despite a £1bn programme to free up 2,000-3,000 beds.
The government have been accused of “sleepwalking into a winter crisis” as the NHS “stands on the brink.”
Its controversial NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan reform programme will see a staggering £25 billion axed from the NHS by 2020 with whole swathes of services — including A&E and maternity departments — set to close.
The British Red Cross declared a “humanitarian crisis” in England’s hospitals during the last NHS crisis with Accident and Emergency departments closing their doors and patients left to die on trolleys in hospital corridors.
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