NHS and social care staff burnout has reached an “emergency” level and poses a risk to the future of services, MPs have warned.
In a highly critical report, the Health and Social Care Committee called for immediate action to support exhausted staff who have worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
And it also pointed to long-standing, unresolved issues even before the virus struck.
For example, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) told MPs that, prior to the onset of the pandemic, there were 50,000 nursing vacancies in the UK.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has said a lack of staff is one of the biggest causes of workforce burnout in mental health services.
In their new report, the MPs said: “The emergency that workforce burnout has become will not be solved without a total overhaul of the way the NHS does workforce planning.
“After the pandemic, which revealed so many critical staff shortages, the least we can do for staff is to show there’s a long-term solution to those shortages, ultimately the biggest driver of burnout.”
The MPs said that, while issues such as excessive workloads may not be solved overnight, staff should be given the confidence that a long-term solution is in place.
“The way that the NHS does workforce planning is at best opaque and at worst responsible for the unacceptable pressure on the current workforce which existed even before the pandemic,” the study said.
“It is clear that workforce planning has been led by the funding envelope available to health and social care rather than by demand and the capacity required to service that demand.”
Tory MP and former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who is chairman of the committee, said: “Workforce burnout across the NHS and care systems now presents an extraordinarily dangerous risk to the future functioning of both services.
“Staff face unacceptable pressure with chronic excessive workload identified as a key driver of workforce burnout.
“It will simply not be possible to address the backlog caused by the pandemic unless these issues are addressed.
“Achieving a long-term solution demands a complete overhaul of workforce planning.
“Those plans should be guided by the need to ensure that the long-term supply of doctors, nurses and other clinicians is not constrained by short-term deficiencies in the number trained.”
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And in adult social care, MPs heard during their inquiry that the situation is “fragile”.
Skills For Care estimated that 7.3% of roles in adult social care had been vacant during the financial year 2019-20, equivalent to around 112,000 vacancies at any one time.
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “This report by the Health and Social Care select committee highlights the intense pressure that colleagues have faced across the health service, much of it as a direct result of inadequate staff numbers and appropriate workforce planning for the future.
“We simply don’t have enough GPs or other members of the practice team to meet demand and general practice is only set to get busier as we support our communities’ recovery from the pandemic.”
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