Rishi Sunak says his “radical and ambitious” plan to modernise and expand the NHS will deliver the health service the public deserves.
The “once in a generation” overhaul will see more than 300,000 extra nurses, doctors and other health workers recruited over the next 15 years. Mr Sunak said it will seize on Brexit opportunities, driving up the number of home-grown NHS staff and ramping up apprenticeship places.
He told the Daily Express: “This is the most radical and ambitious modernisation ever of the NHS. This is the right long-term initiative for our country. It is very bold, will create a variety of new roles, with the largest expansion in training and workforce in the NHS’s history.”
The NHS’s first ever long-term workforce plan comes as officials warned that, without action, there could be 360,000 vacancies in the health service by 2037.
Mr Sunak said the plan is the biggest programme of investment in the NHS for more than 20 years and has been made possible by leaving the EU. It has been backed by a £2.4billion investment by the Government to fund additional education and training places over five years on top of existing funding commitments.
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The PM added: “This is the biggest spending decision I have made. It is exciting for the country and is a long-term plan that is a very big deal. We’ve been too reliant on overseas staff rather than training our own professionals.
“Our key ambitions are to train and retain staff, but also to reform to make the health service more productive and to work in a more efficient way.
“Our plan will enable us to hire the numbers of doctors, GPs and nurses the service requires to provide the level of care the British public wants and needs.
“It is the biggest programme of investment in the NHS since 2000. We’re doing something no Government has ever done before, and I would argue it is one of the most significant announcements in the history of the NHS.”
Health leaders say the strategy will help meet the challenges of a growing and ageing population while addressing recruitment and retention issues currently leading to severe staff shortages.
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There are currently 112,000 vacancies across the NHS in England. Officials say the plan could mean the health service has at least an extra 60,000 doctors, 170,000 more nurses and 71,000 more health professionals in place by 2036/37.
NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “The publication of our first ever NHS long-term workforce plan now gives us a once in a generation opportunity to put staffing on a sustainable footing for the years to come. This blueprint is the first step in a major expansion of our workforce to ensure we have the staff we need to deliver for patients.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “The long-term plan, backed by significant Government investment, shows our determination to grow the workforce. The plan comes after the NHS has been plagued by strikes, including by nurses earlier this year.
Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen said: “The release of this plan must mark a moment where all players begin to shift to discussing meaningful and long-term solutions before the staff shortages bite even harder.
“All eyes will be on the amount of committed funding and for what duration – long-term plans need long-term assured funding.”
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