Bishop of Carlisle asks about publication of the government’s NHS Workforce Plan

The Bishop of Carlisle asked a question on when the government’s NHS Workforce Plan would be published, during a debate on junior doctors strikes on 30th March 2023:

The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, we know that a major cause of the strikes that we have recently seen in the health service relates to staff who are overstretched. That is the result of chronic shortages, which suggests a lack of adequate workforce planning. We have just heard that there are currently over 124,000 reported vacancies, according to the NHS Confederation. I repeat a question that was asked earlier, or shall at least reinforce it: when will the workforce plan be published? Without it, healthcare staff will continue to struggle to provide the level of care that they would like.

Lord Markham (Con): As I have mentioned many a time and am happy to mention again, the workforce plan will be announced shortly—soon. I wish I could give an exact date, but it is there. However, I am sorry to say that I do not believe that can be used as an excuse for the strike action that we are talking about now, which puts patients at risk. I know that, in other areas, the Agenda for Change unions have worked constructively with NHS trusts on derogations to protect patients, but I regret to inform the House that that is not the case now. There is lots that we need to do in the workforce space, and there is lots that we want to do around recruitment, motivation and making it a good place to work, but I would like to think that none of that means that the delay of a report is a reason to take this sort of action and put patients’ lives in danger. I do not think any of us would agree that that is a suitable reason.


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