NHS facing 'unforgivable' workforce crisis as number of doctors stands 25 years behind similar EU nations

The NHS workforce is in a critical and 'unforgivable' state with record-low ratios of doctors to patients, research by the British Medical Association has claimed.

The NHS workforce is in a critical and 'unforgivable' state with record-low ratios of doctors to patients, research by the British Medical Association has claimed
The NHS workforce is in a critical and 'unforgivable' state with record-low ratios of doctors to patients, research by the British Medical Association has claimed

The health service is not only struggling with an estimated 50,000 doctors needed, but also to retain the staff it currently has, according to one Leeds doctor.

Some staff are reportedly retiring early, while junior doctors in the infancy of their careers are finding themselves vastly outnumbered when applying for training positions and are not being allocated time for their own learning.

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The number of doctors per 1,000 people in England is currently at 2.8 – a rate which is 25 years behind comparable European Union nations where there are 3.7 doctors per 1,000, according to the BMA research published today.

The NHS workforce is in a critical and 'unforgivable' state with record-low ratios of doctors to patients, research by the British Medical Association has claimed

England has the second lowest doctor-to-person ratio than any other comparable EU nation, after Poland.

The BMA's research also found that not a single area in England has a doctor-to-patient ratio on par with the average for comparable nations, with grim estimates that it could take 25 years for the figure to catch up to 3.7 doctors per 1,000.

Dr Richard Vautrey, a GP based in Meanwood, Leeds and Chair of the BMA's GP committee, said workforce problems were widescale across the board and caused by a range of different factors.

"There are too few GPs and too few hospital doctors to meet the growing health demands of the population," he told The Yorkshire Post.

The NHS workforce is in a critical and 'unforgivable' state with record-low ratios of doctors to patients, research by the British Medical Association has claimed

"This is a long-standing problem where the government and previous governments haven't sufficiently invested in the NHS "

Dr Vautrey said many NHS staff had felt forced to cut their hours or quit altogether due to myriad issues such as being made to work long hours, feeling "taken for granted", unrealistic targets, concerns about complaints and "punitive" pension policies which see older doctors retire earlier.

Women in the profession, the GP said, were also feeling squeezed out due to problems balancing childcare and other care duties.

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The BMA is now calling on Secretary of State Sajid Javid for increased investment in medical courses and for more training places, as well as more incentives to keep staff in the force for longer.

The Association is also asking for assessments of the NHS workforce to be carried out and published regularly as part of the Health and Care Bill.

Dr Latifa Patel, acting chair of the BMA representative body and chief officer workforce lead, said: “It’s unforgivable that the government has allowed the NHS workforce crisis to get to this point. Today’s report not only highlights the sheer scale of doctor shortages in England, but also how woefully unprepared the nation is to meet the healthcare challenges of the future.

She added: "If this crisis is left to deepen, more patients will go without the care they need, their safety will be threatened, and existing staff will be pushed to the limit like never before, driving yet more talented healthcare professionals out of the NHS."

The Yorkshire Post contacted the Department for Health and Social Care for comment.

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