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Alternative Diagnosis – Who is to blame for crippling the NHS with staff shortages?

MPs have hit out at the government and national health bodies, blaming poor leadership for the crippling front-line staff shortages that are plaguing the NHS.

A report recently published suggests that the NHS is missing 50,000 vital members of staff necessary to allow it to perform to the expected standards. In recent times this shortage has led to hospital departments having to close due to unsafe staffing levels and patients having to travel to alternative hospitals to receive treatment from those better staffed. One of the hospitals affected, Bassetlaw Hospital, has said that it has a lack of overnight staff which is affecting its ability to treat 10 to 14 patients per week.

MPs have said that conflicting messages from government, such as the need to cut overheads but also increase staffing levels, has led to the crisis, forcing hospitals to cut training posts for front-line staff and failing to retain those already in the NHS.

General Secretary for the Royal College of Nursing, Janet Davies, has said “What we have seen so far is how short-term decisions and budget cuts lead to nothing but lowered standards of care which could so easily have been avoided”.

The Department of Health has responded to the committee involved in the criticisms, saying that rises in spending on front life staff will provide the NHS with 11,420 more doctors and 10,000 nurses, midwives and other health roles by 2020. However, this seems to fall far short of the 50,000 deficit that the committee reports has already hit the NHS, let alone that by 2020.

NHS leaders have blamed medical staff agencies, for charging high hourly rates to provide locum doctors and nursing to short staffed hospitals at short notice. They say that if their Trusts did not have to pay such exceptionally high costs, they could afford to recruit more staff as a long term solution. The government has recently introduced a cap on fees that agencies can charge, which previously saw junior agency doctors earning more than full time NHS Consultants, and this is hoped to alleviate some of the financial pressure placed on Trusts. But critics have said that poor management and planning within Trusts leads to the need for agency staff, and the cost of agency workers should not be used as a veil to cover the real problem.

So it would seem that everyone is blaming each other for the current staffing crisis, which is unlikely to lead to a reasonable and long term solution.

If you or anyone you know may have been the victim of medical negligence, contact our specialist lawyers on 0800 316 8892 to find out how we may be able to help.

May 2016