24 November 2021

Intensive Care Society responds to the rejection of the amendment to strengthen workforce planning in the Health and Care Bill

The Intensive Care Society is deeply disappointed with the announcement that the amendment to the Health and Care Bill, tabled by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP to strengthen workforce planning, has been voted down by the House of Commons.

The Intensive Care Society, as the national representative for critical care, alongside the Royal College of Physicians and 58 other organisations submitted a collective amendment to the Health and Care bill on 15 November 2021.

The amendment to Clause 34 of the Health and Care Bill would have required the Secretary of State to publish independently verified assessments of current and future workforce numbers every two years consistent with Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) long-term fiscal projections. There is a workforce crisis within the NHS and our critical care health care professionals are on the front line dealing with increasingly unsustainable pressures for the last two years.

It is crucial that we can have national discussions about the workforce concerns within the NHS and solutions will only be reached if we are prepared to be open about the magnitude of the problem and the measures required to address this. Withholding information and plans helps no one and impacts negatively on the experience of the very people we should be protecting, our patients and staff. 

Discussions about the importance of wellbeing and supporting NHS staff are meaningless if the very core of their concerns are not addressed: funded and staffed beds; conditions that enable staff to provide the best compassionate and timely care; transparency about the pressure and challenges the NHS continues to face.

The NHS’ ability to deliver care and reduce the growing elective backlog, hinges on having a healthy workforce to administer it. The past two years has only further increased staffing vacancies across the NHS. This is putting unsustainable and unwelcomed pressure on staff. Taking into consideration the relentless psychological trauma from the pandemic, our workforce is at risk. 

The message is simple, there must be a clear and effective strategy to fix these issues if the Government is to achieve its wider ambitions for health and care both now and in the future. 

We urge the upper house to carefully review the principles of this amendment and approve a bill which then ensures wider visibility of the issues and enables a workforce recovery pathway to be followed. Failing to take this seriously could result in a serious impact for patient care across the UK.

Download the statement