Thank you for contacting me about the NHS workforce and workforce planning. Proper staffing is vital both to the effective functioning of the NHS as a whole and to the working conditions and wellbeing of the thousands of dedicated staff that provide our health services locally and across the country.
The Health and Care Bill is continuing its passage through Parliament. While it will make a number of welcome improvements and be the start of proper integration across health and social care, I was disappointed that some of the proposals keep falling – including the obligation to undertake and report on workforce planning. What gets measured – and is visible – gets done!
I took the opportunity recently during Department of Health questions to highlight the challenge for rural areas in developing a workforce plan, something I have repeatedly raised with Ministers on a number of occasions.
Indeed, the last report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Health and Social Care which I chaired made 10 recommendations, including for how we might address workforce planning in rural areas. I asked the Minister what steps he had taken to put in place any of those recommendations to improve the plight of those living in rural areas. The answer was not satisfactory – the fight will continue! As set out in the report, I believe that specific rural content should be included in every first degree in medicine, nursing and social care. We should also mandate rural work experience in every general practice course, every geriatrician course, every nursing course and all core health care training.
I will continue to make the case for improved workforce planning in Devon and across the country, and for our specific local rural challenges to be properly recognised and met.