The RCP has issued a briefing ahead of the debate in Parliament on the future of the NHS, its funding and staffing.
The RCP welcomes this debate on the future of the NHS, its funding and its staffing. Workforce is the biggest barrier to reducing NHS waiting lists and providing care sustainably in the long-term.
There are currently 7.2 million people are on waiting lists in England. We were pleased to see that ensuring NHS waiting lists fall and people get the care they need more quickly is one of the Prime Minister’s five key priorities, but there are too few doctors to meet demand.
According to the RCP census, over half (52%) of advertised consultant physician posts went unfilled in 2021. Of the 52%, 74% went unfilled due to a lack of any applicants at all.
Before COVID-19, health inequalities were estimated to account for almost a fifth (£4.8bn) of the NHS budget. The DHSC and the NHS are currently being put in an unsustainable position of treating illnesses created by the environments in which people live.
We need to end this cycle and tackle the social determinants of health. That is why the Inequalities in Health Alliance (IHA), an alliance of over 230 organisations convened by the RCP, is calling for a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities that considers the role of every government department and every available policy lever to tackle the factors that make people ill in the first place.
Reducing health inequalities, and avoidable illness overall, is key to reducing NHS demand and improving the health of the country.
The RCP is calling for:
- Government to commit to funding to underpin the long-term workforce plan for the remaining years of the Spending Review period at the Spring Budget 2023.
- An expansion in the number of medical school places to 15,000 per year, at an annual cost of around £1.85bn. The long-term workforce plan should include a funded multi-year expansion of medical school and training places to ensure we have the doctors we need in future.
- Government to commit to a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities that considers the role of every government department and every available policy lever to tackle the factors that make people ill in the first place.