Wednesday, 8 Feb 2023

NHS chief calls for increased training for doctors and nurses in UK

NHS ambulance workers across England man their picket lines

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NHS Chief Amanda Pritchard has called for an increase in the training of homegrown doctors and nurses in the UK as she warned that hospitals are “over-reliant” on foreign staff, a news report has claimed. Ms Pritchard said she wanted to stop spending £3 billion a year on agency staff and that they should be “the exception” rather than the rule.

Speaking to The Times, the NHS chief said that the NHS “would want to be very ambitious” in increasing the number of homegrown recruits.

She told the publication: “There’s no lack of demand.

“We are seeing universities having to turn away really excellent people, not just for medical degrees but nursing, therapy — across the board.

“Obviously you’re also looking at the ability of universities to ramp up the training places and of the NHS to make sure we’ve got the right clinical places, but over the next few years we would want to be in a position where we were increasingly able to be self reliant on having a workforce that would meet demand.”

Recent figures show that heart attack and stroke patients waited an average of 93 minutes for an ambulance last month.

Acknowledging the grim numbers, Ms Pritchard said that patients were dying because of record delays in urgent and emergency care.

NHS England has more than 133,000 vacancies, according to the most recent figures, a rise of nearly a third from the year before.

Health trusts paid up to £2,500 last year for a single agency nurse shift and up to £5,200 for a doctor shift.

About half of new doctors, nurses and midwives registered in the UK received their training overseas.

However, the 7,500 medical school places on offer in the UK each year are hugely oversubscribed.

Only 16 per cent of applicants to medicine or dentistry were offered a place in the latest round of applications.

Ms Pritchard said that the vacancies needed to be filled and it would be better if they were filled by staff recruits rather than agency workers.

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She said that “we will always welcome staff wherever they come from”.

However, she warned: “Demand for healthcare is only going to grow around the world over the coming years and that means greater competition for skilled staff.

“Reducing use of agency staff would also result in more stable teams that made working lives in the NHS better.”

With nurses due to walk out on Wednesday and Thursday, she warned ministers against expecting her to cut services to fund an increased pay offer.

She added: “Ministers were clear in the autumn statement that they recognised the impact that inflation was going to have on the NHS and they wanted to make sure that we didn’t have to cut services in order to accommodate the impact of inflation.

“I would be surprised if there was a deviation from that.”

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