26 July 2022

Article inc. statement from Dr Josh Wright, President of the British Society for Haematology on the Health and Social Care Committee Expert Panel’s Report: Government commitments made in the area of the health and social care workforce in England 

Report on NHS workforce crisis highlights concerns of haematology professionals 

Evidence submitted by BSH to an expert panel of the Health and Social Care Select Committee has been highlighted as part of a damning report published today. The enquiry report, Government commitments made in the area of the health and social care workforce in England, finds that “persistent understaffing in the NHS poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety in routine and emergency care”. MPs on the Select Committee highlight that the NHS and social care face “the greatest workforce crisis in their history, compounded by the absence of a credible government strategy to tackle the situation”.

BSH’s own evidence of chronic workforce shortages was cited as well as the impact of the pandemic in amplifying these problems. The report references unequal opportunity and investment in training which are causing particular problems for the haematology workforce. The authors also point to concern from the BSH and others over the Health and Care Act 2022 becoming law without provisions for independent workforce planning reviews.

Our submission was informed, in particular, by BSH’s latest haematology workforce report, published in 2020, which showed that unfilled vacancies in the Haematology workforce remain significant. Many Trusts are having to resort to employing expensive locums to ensure essential services can be delivered in the face of long term vacancies. It found that there are particularly high vacancy rates for nurses in this area - well above the equivalent rates in other nursing disciplines.

Josh Wright, President of the British Society for Haematology said:

“Severe understaffing in haematology services around the country is compromising the health of patients reliant on their care and forms part of an endemic crisis within the NHS. At a time when new haematological treatments and the advances of genomic medicine provide hope; while increased life expectancy necessitates prolonged care; we are losing experienced consultants to retirement and facing trainee shortages.

“Despite the Government’s commitments to ensure that the NHS has the health professionals it needs, the haematology workforce has manifestly not grown to support patient needs – in terms of numbers, training or resources. This is a longstanding problem. Workforce issues have been identified in haematology for a long time, including in a rigorous, independent, 2011 analysis of training needs submitted to the Department for Health which called for urgent attention to encourage staff into the specialty and avoid future workforce issues. However, this advice has not been heeded."

The Select Committee report outlines the scale of the workforce crisis: new research suggests the NHS in England is short of 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives; evidence on workforce projections say an extra 475,000 jobs will be needed in health and an extra 490,000 jobs in social care by the early part of the next decade; hospital waiting lists reached a record high of nearly 6.5 million in April. It recommends that the Government must act swiftly to reform the NHS pension scheme to prevent senior staff from reducing their hours and retiring early from the NHS.