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Ensure that the NHS and social care system has the medical staff it needs

Last updated: 12:28pm 6 June 2019

Second, we will ensure that the NHS and social care system have the nurses, midwives, doctors, carers and other health professionals that it needs.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.66

Our verdict

The NHS is one of the top five largest workforces in the world, with NHS England alone employing around 1.2 million people. In such a massive organisation, staff numbers will always fluctuate. From 2010-2017, the general trend in NHS England was an increase in full-time equivalent staff numbers of approximately 0.5% per year. Despite that, there have been longstanding concerns about the number of unfilled vacancies across the NHS. This policy is a promise to ensure that the NHS and social care system are properly staffed.

In January 2019, the government announced a ten-year plan to improve the quality of patient care and health outcomes in the NHS. The NHS Long Term Plan acknowledges that “workforce growth has not kept up with need”, and that the current number of vacancies is “unsustainable”. It sets out plans for expanding the number of staff and growing the medical workforce, but many of the new targets run beyond the end of this government’s term of office.

Since the election in 2017 the staffing problem has not been turned around, with one in every 11 NHS posts in England lying vacant in the year 2018-19. The NHS Long Term Plan charts a course for addressing the issue of unfilled vacancies, but it also recognises that the scale of the challenge means it will take years to overcome.

This policy promised to ensure the NHS and social care system were properly staffed. Given that some work has been done (in the form of the Long Term Plan), it would be incorrect to say this is ‘not started’, so we’re marking this as ‘in progress’ for now. The timescales for achieving this pledge mean that it is unlikely to be fulfilled during this term of office. We’ll keep tracking staffing numbers and vacancy levels, so follow this policy to stay up to date.

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