TO THERESA May, Jeremy Corbyn and many others, politics – and policy-making – is a numbers game as they use statistics, and semantics, to justify their approach to public services.
It is why the Prime Minister always points out that the NHS is now the beneficiary of record levels of investment and that these sums far exceed those promised by Labour at the last election.
However this investment – an extra £20bn a year by 2023 – will not be spent to its optimum if the NHS continues to have insufficient nurses and doctors to treat patients and has to rely on ‘agency’ staff.
Yet what is so frustrating is that the recruitment and retention of NHS staff is one of those issues – adult social care is another – that has been neglected over the past 1,000 days because of Brexit.
Without clarity over Britain’s departure from the EU and the country’s future policy on migration, it is very difficult for the NHS – and other sectors of the economy – to plan ahead and the intervention today by the leading health think-tanks is a timely reminder about the need for swift action.
As well as the NHS being able to recruit staff from overseas, Ministers need to reappraise training bursaries so more people can be incentivised to pursue careers in medicine, nursing and care.
And given the length of time that it takes to train doctors and nurses, the Government needs to understand why so many trained staff are leaving the medical profession – and act accordingly. If not, staff shortages – and increased waiting times – will only increase and make a mockery of the Government’s funding commitment.