Speaking in Parliament, Imran draws attention to the healthcare staff recruitment crisis within the NHS in Bradford and across the country which has led to an over-reliance on expensive temporary agency staff.
According to figures obtained by Imran through a Freedom of Information request, Bradford Royal Infirmary continues to face a healthcare staffing crisis, with Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust employing over 430 whole time equivalent staff during the 2015/16 financial year at a cost of over £19 million. The majority of these staff are employed as Healthcare Assistants and Nurses. However, as pointed out by Imran in Parliament, this is not a problem specific to Bradford, with net temporary staff expenditure rising nationally by almost 40% between 2013/14 and 2015/16 to £4.13 billion, representing 8% of the total staff expenditure.
Along with the considerable financial expense to the NHS arising from paying additional healthcare staff, Imran has also pointed out that an over-reliance on temporary healthcare staff brings substantial risks to patient safety, with General Medical Council (GMC) Chief Executive, Niall Dickson stating that temporary staff are ‘attracting risk’ as they lack an awareness of the hospital environments they are working in and are often brought in to supplement already pressured teams.
Putting the blame for the need to increase the use of temporary healthcare at the expense of patient safety firmly at the door of the Department for Health, Imran has criticised the Government’s removal of student nursing bursaries and their failure to properly recruit and retain doctors, echoing concerns by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and UNISON that the scrapping of student nursing bursaries by the Government could put prospective students off NHS careers and worsen staffing shortages as a consequence.
Speaking on the rising use of temporary healthcare staff in the NHS, Imran said:
“The rising cost of temporary staff demonstrates the increasing reliance on them to plug full-time vacancies in the NHS that is stretching already overwhelmed budgets, with hospital bosses across the country forced to choose between maintaining their budgets and ensuring that their hospitals are properly staffed, and it is clear that the Government must urgently act to tackle dangerous staff shortages in hospitals in the District as well as across the country before the problem gets worse.
“Both the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council have raised the serious concerns that they have about risks to patient safety around the use of temporary healthcare staff in hospitals that they are unfamiliar with, and they are concerns that I wholeheartedly agree with as it is both unsustainable and unsafe to continue with using temporary staff in place of permanent staff on a long-term basis as is currently the case.
“What this ultimately comes down to is a failure by the Government over the past six years to admit that there is an increasing healthcare staff recruitment and retention problem in the NHS, made worse by their cuts to the NHS, attacks on junior doctors, and removal of student nursing bursaries, and if Jeremy Hunt wishes to follow through with his party Conference announcement about increasing the number of NHS staff, he must take the step now of re-instating student nursing bursaries and improving conditions for healthcare staff.”