NHS Vacancies

You may have seen the news today about the scale of NHS vacancies that is threatening hospitals all over the country with closed wards and services.

Regardless of current issues around pay and Brexit, the articifical and ideological imposition of an internal market has been making this problem worse for years. When a hospital starts to have issues then it can set off a vicous circle that just makes it worse until it is forced to cut services. For example, one hospital not a million miles away from where I live in Bath started having problems recruiting staff for its Emergency Department. If you want to work in an ED do you pick a hospital where you will be one of too few staff trying to hold a struggling department together, or would you choose to work just down the road in a safer ED where you are more likely to have the support you need?

There are solutions to this problem, such as hospitals buying each other and becoming multi-site, then allocating staff as required. However, this is difficult and staff can still understandably resist such moves. Unfortunately the very idea of the internal market, where hospitals are forced to compete, forces these issues to occur. Added to this, hospitals require a number of different services and specialists to support things like an ED, and if those services are lost then there can be knock-on effects.

Of course, on top of this generally problematic structure of enforced competition has come years of pay caps, cuts and destructive policies have brought the NHS to a cliff edge, but Brexit has been the final straw that has pushed it over the edge. Hospitals around the country now regularly cannot staff to safe levels. We’ve seen more nurses and midwives leaving the NHS than joining, with the main reason given by them being staffing levels and workload. Again, this is a vicious circle - as numbers fall, other staff will start to think the same way. Everyone has a limit to their tolerence.

The government must immediately reinstate NHS bursaries and go on a recruitment drive for students. Of course they won’t, because the Tory plan has always been to destroy the NHS, and that is coming along nicely. Sadly, even if there was a change of government tomorrow and proper recruitment started, the new staff won’t be available for three years.

Try not to get ill.