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A new report from MPs warns that persistent understaffing in the NHS, compounded by an absence of long-term planning, poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety. The Commons' Health and Social Care Committee has called on the next Prime Minister to make NHS and social care workforce a top priority.

The Committee’s calls are based on the findings of an independent expert panel inquiry, commissioned by the MPs and chaired by Prof Dame Jane Dacre, to evaluate the government’s progress against its own commitments to improve the health and social care workforce.

Read BSR’s submission to the inquiry

Responding to the report, BSR President Dr Sanjeev Patel said: "Job vacancies and shortages, coupled with limiting training and development opportunities, are holding back rheumatology teams from focusing on their critically important work.

"The future Prime Minister and new Secretary of State must reflect seriously on what’s being said and be bold. The Government and NHS England, through the Best MSK Programme, have to move away from generic commitments to increase staff.

"Solving the rheumatology workforce crisis requires a detailed plan setting out how to increase the rheumatology consultant and specialist nurse numbers, develop enhanced roles for allied health professionals across all pathways and improve exposure to rheumatology training."

Key report outcomes

  • "Workforce planning was considered an unaddressed afterthought by Government"
  • Targets were set, but weren't underpinned by demand modeling, so were unable to evidence how targets for staff numbers were linked to patient and service need or demand
  • The panel found that the Government failed to add adequate resources or funding to support workforce planning, as well as effectively focusing on the issue of staff retention
  • Evidence shows that understaffing impacted safety and quality of care, staff productivity and staff ability to deal with the backlog
  • They also heard evidence of lack of training and development opportunities across professions and within specialties, further compounded by a lack of protected time to undertake training.