The events of the past year have placed a huge burden on our health service and all those who work in it. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to generate enormous challenges, we are proud of the vital part our membership has played in providing excellent patient care.
Our Fellows and Members have shown leadership, flexibility and professionalism, ensuring that health services across England and Wales were able to adapt at a breath-taking pace to meet the challenges of the pandemic.
We have seen that speed of decision making, innovative thinking and breaking through bureaucracy has served us well. The same approach will be needed to create the shape of our workforce going forward. We need to maintain its morale, resilience and to achieve adequate staffing levels.
Although the pandemic brought the best out of our NHS and its staff, it has also highlighted and exacerbated the ongoing challenges that we have faced over the past few years.
There are key issues that need to be addressed urgently which are outlined in Our Election Manifesto and below.
We need to address our workforce crisis by increasing the supply of medical professionals, and taking action to retain those who already work in the NHS. We need to learn from COVID-19.
We believe that the following need to be accomplished urgently:
- Increase the number of medical school programmes, including for those on graduate entry programmes.
- This should include a commitment to further increase the numbers of students from areas of multiple deprivation and from non-traditional backgrounds who choose to pursue medicine as a career.
- This commitment to expansion of medical school places should also incorporate a commitment to provide consultants with sufficient time for the additional teaching pressures that this change will entail. Employers and government must recognise the importance of ensuring that medical students and trainees are properly supported through their vital period of training within the NHS.
- Retain medical staff at all stages of their career: identify and resolve the key issues which are driving doctors to leave the profession.
- Work with the UK Government to ensure that we can recruit additional staff from outside the UK by:
- Increasing in the number of places available through the Medical Training Initiative.
- Reinstating permit free training.
- Ensuring that health and social care workers from EU member states do not face additional barriers to come and work in the UK after Brexit.
- Rapidly develop the roles of and training capacity for Physician Assistant, Anaesthetic Assistant, Surgical Care practitioners and other enhanced roles to maximise the workforce.
There is an urgent need to address workforce shortages in the NHS and to provide the existing workforce with adequate time to heal from the pandemic before we start to ramp up activity to start on bringing waiting lists down.
We call on the next English and Welsh elected representatives including elected Mayors and the Senedd Cymru to urgently address these issues which the College believes are so pressing, they threaten the future viability of the NHS.
- Going forward this means providing peer support, psychological support and specialist mental health services. All new support given must be sustainable - as we are likely to see the impact of COVID for years to come.
- We need to ensure that basic facilities such as hot food, and somewhere to sit and have a break are available 24 hours a day.
- Workloads must be realistic-hence the need for workforce planning. The major reason for poor wellbeing is chronic excessive workload.
The issues outlined above are relevant to all four nations which make up the United Kingdom.
At the same time, our membership in England and Wales has reported that they are under more pressure than ever before, and this stress is taking its toll on their ability to carry out their jobs and their life outside work.
This is why we’ve put together this manifesto for the elections on 6 May 2021 in England and Wales and we urge the new administrations to address these issues as a matter of urgency.
Up and down the country candidates are working hard to appeal for your support. Now is the #TimeToSpeakUp for our membership.
You can play your part! Make sure that candidates and their activists are aware of the urgency of these issues by asking one of these questions when you get the opportunity:
- Will you commit to or support increasing the number of places in medical schools in order to increase the supply of doctors to the NHS?
- Will you commit to improve the flexibility offered to NHS staff at all levels to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to work flexibly or less than full time?
- Will you work to ensure that all staff contracts contain a healthy balance between direct clinical care and time required to teach, train junior doctors and undertake CPD?
- Will you commit to working with NHS Trusts or Boards to retain and embed the good practice that has emerged from work within the NHS throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Will you commit to supporting Public Health investment and Local or National Level (in Wales) to provide support for NHS services and planning to reduce the burden of disease and tackle issues of Health inequalities?