In response to a letter from NHS England to NHS Trust leaders on ‘enabling the workforce for elective recovery’, the RCP has once again called for clear plans, regularly reviewed, to increase recruitment and improve retention of staff.
The letter includes a list of ‘high impact enablers’ to increase hours worked and bring in more people. Enablers for increasing hours include removing caps on consultant job plans and increasing contracted hours through bank shifts. Bringing in more people includes encouraging those who have recently retired to return to work and discouraging those planning to take early retirement from doing so. Among national measures is the extension of temporary rules allowing people to work more with minimal pension impact.
Dr Andrew Goddard, president of the RCP, said: “Restoring elective activity and reducing the backlog alongside the challenge of meeting increased demand for urgent and emergency care, will take a huge collective effort across the NHS.
“I know that my colleagues will rise to this challenge, but many, if not most, already are – our annual census finds that consultants already work 11% more than they are contracted. We cannot escape the fact that the reason people are being asked to work even longer hours, postpone their retirement – or return to work from it - is because we don’t have enough staff.
“Many clinicians considering increasing their hours will be wary about the impact on their pensions – this is a difficult issue to solve. But more importantly they will be thinking about the impact on patient safety.
“It’s right that we look for interim solutions and ideas to reduce waiting lists, but in the long-term the only answer is to tackle the workforce shortages that made the impact of the pandemic on the NHS and social care, and all of those who work in it, greater than it needed to be.
“The NHS workforce plan due later this year must set out clear plans for increased recruitment and improved retention, based on population need, with a commitment for the strategy to be reviewed and refreshed within the lifecycle of the plan so that it remains fit for purpose.”