Will Ford: Teachers and NHS staff being forgotten in Brexit chaos – here’s how and why

Issues like teacher recruitment have been neglected due to Brexit.
Issues like teacher recruitment have been neglected due to Brexit.
Have your say

DEAL or no deal; hard or soft Brexit; Article 50; the divorce bill; the backstop. Enough of the unintelligible jargon, oneupmanship and face-palm inducing interviews with perplexed MPs, it’s time to get back to running the country.

Other issues don’t cease to be. Like the NHS and education – key issues which are now non-issues in our Brexit-obsessed society. While civil servants are re-deployed in aid of Brexit negotiations, where does this leave the departments they’ve left? Understaffed. On the back-burner.

Brexit could compromise NHS staff shortages.

Brexit could compromise NHS staff shortages.

The Government has missed their target for teacher recruitment for the last five years. The story is the same in the NHS, with huge numbers of posts unfilled, and recruitment drives proving limited in their success.

A lack of teachers and healthcare professionals can only serve to reduce the quality of two aspects of our society that we used to be so proud of. Whether Brexit itself will benefit or hinder education and the NHS is besides the point.

The point is that while the Prime Minister and MPs are scrabbling around for a deal that is somewhere near fit for purpose, teachers, doctors and nurses are left waving their hands in the air asking: “What about us?”

The Department for Education’s latest strategy for recruiting and retaining school teachers involves throwing money at the problem, offering £5,000 incentives in year three and five of their careers. In other words – a bribe.

Money is not the problem. The problem is that pie-in-the-sky fantasy we all strive for –- the work-life balance. A growing issue in education, healthcare and across the public sector.

In any profession you must balance your enjoyment of the job against the financial benefits of it. While the Government incentives may attract a few new recruits, for most, with the reality of the day-to-day grind of being a teacher comes the inevitable feeling that the stress isn’t worth the money. No marking? Less data input? Pre-prepared lesson plans? All active, tangible ways to improve teacher wellbeing.

Unlike the current strategy which can be summed up by: Here’s a bit of extra cash, sshhh.

The situation in the NHS is arguably worse. Snap, reactive policy decisions continue to ramp up the workload and decrease the efficiency of NHS institutions. The draw of reasonable working hours, and less red tape in the private sector, is all the more alluring for healthcare professionals.

More than half of NHS doctors say that they are considering moving into the private sector, and nurses are leaving the NHS in search of a more manageable, less stressful lifestyle.

Training a doctor costs the taxpayer more than £200,000 – arguably wasted money should that doctor not stay with the NHS. Conditions have got to improve to ensure that these hardworking, talented individuals remain in the public sector to provide healthcare for all, rather than the few.

Recruitment and retainment in the NHS is at an all time low since Brexit. And with EU doctors and nurses unsure that their rights will be protected in a no deal scenario, we could see a mass exodus in the coming months.

The Civil Service, however, is booming. Jobs created to cope with the strain of Brexit, £1bn spent on new staff – vacancies filled, no problem.

Policies, like the recruitment and retention strategy for teachers, are not being given the coverage and attention they need. The Government, rather than being made culpable for an inability to come up with a viable plan to rescue education and the NHS, is instead brushing the issues under the carpet, in the midst of a Brexit media storm.

The Government has been so inexplicably blindsided by Brexit, that it seems incapable of considering the pressing issues at home, staring up at it from the gutter.

There will be at least 1,009 days between deciding to leave the EU and actually leaving it if it happens on March 29. 1,009 days spent deliberating. Time that has seen an exponential decline in the quality of our public services.

The damage is not irreparable, but the negligence is hard to watch. We can only hope that the ‘‘out of sight, out of mind’’ mentality the Government has employed for the last three years does not come back to bite us too hard.

Will Ford is a Journalism Masters student studying at Leeds Trinity University. He gained a teaching qualification through the Teachfirst graduate programme and taught for four years in Birmingham and Leeds before leaving the profession in April.