Thursday, January 04, 2007

'a tragic failure of central planning'

That would go with the territory:

A severe shortage of nurses and GPs in the next few years is predicted in a leaked Government report which reveals a staffing time-bomb in the [National Health Service].

....The document – the draft Pay and Workforce Strategy for 2008-11 – was written against the backdrop of the need to reduce the £30 billion NHS pay bill and it will lead to recommendations which will be considered for the Treasury's Comprehensive Spending Review later this year.

....The document says that there are "very volatile" shifts in the number of staff needed and predicts a "sharp reduction" in numbers this year. It predicts a 2.7 per cent loss of jobs, which is substantially more than the 20,000 estimated losses that the Government denied last year.

....Dr Jonathan Fielden, of the BMA's consultants' committee, said it was absurd to suggest that the NHS needed fewer hospital consultants.

"To suggest that there should be fewer consultants, and of a lower grade, will destroy the gold standard of specialist care that patients rightly deserve," he said.

"Workforce planning in the NHS has for many years been woefully inadequate and this latest thinking is yet further evidence."

He added: "The Government should be investing in the NHS by improving capacity, not reducing specialist skills by cutting back on consultants or by introducing an inferior grade."

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said ministers had rubbished claims of 20,000 job losses, but the prediction was now almost twice that this year.

"The financial crisis in the NHS is now driving Government policy," he added. "By cynically using the misery of unemployment to cut pay, Labour ministers are making hard-working doctors and nurses pay for Governmental incompetence. The effect on morale will be dire.

"We can never again allow such a tragic failure of central planning."

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