IT is less than two weeks since The Yorkshire Post suggested that the Government’s cash boost for the NHS will be devalued unless there are sufficient staff to provide the quality of care that patients, and their families, have come to expect.
This warning has now been re-enforced by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee which says that the NHS long-term plan will not deliver the promised improvements if hospitals continue to lose staff and fail to attract more overseas nurses and doctors.
Time is not on the Government’s side. There are currently 100,000 vacancies, according to this report, and the pressures facing hospitals are being compounded by a ‘double whammy’ – Brexit uncertainty, which is making it harder to recruit staff from abroad, and a continuing lack of clarity on adult social care funding.
Yet, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been ordered by PAC chairwoman Meg Hillier to put in place a plan of action by July, the question is whether he is capable of doing so when he is among those Tories plotting to succeed Theresa May.
As such, it is important that the PAC holds the Minister to account. For, if he has the country’s best interests at heart, Mr Hancock will excuse himself from the Cabinet’s infighting over Brexit – and the forthcoming leadership contest – and focus on the recruitment, training and retention of sufficient NHS staff. If he succeeds, it will show that the Government is still capable of spending taxpayers’ money wisely, raising staff morale in the NHS and delivering lasting change on behalf of patients and the medical profession.