Attempts to clean up the NHS backlog are thrown off course by a lack of staff, MPs are warned

Efforts to clear record waiting lists by the NHS risk deviating from a staffing shortage fueled by Covid’s isolation rules, MPs have warned.

The pandemic has had “catastrophic effects” on patients, nearly 6 million of whom are now awaiting care in England.

However, the Commons’ Health and Welfare Committee said the lists could double by 2025 without urgent action to get more doctors and nurses on wards.

One report highlighted 93,000 healthcare vacancies, with rules forcing employees to self-isolate for at least a week if they test positive for Covid, compounding the shortage.

The committee said NHS staff are under pressure from multiple angles when dealing with routine care, Covid and the increasing demand for ambulances and A&E.

MPs fear workers will quit unless they see “light at the end of the tunnel” in the form of more recruits.

The pandemic has had

The pandemic has had

The pandemic has had “catastrophic effects” on patients, nearly 6 million of whom are now awaiting care in England

They say tackling the major backlog caused by the pandemic is a major and “unquantifiable” challenge as it includes anyone who has not yet signed up for care.

Committee members call for a comprehensive national recovery plan that includes emergency, community and social welfare, as well as mental health and general practitioners.

The report said: “Of the 5.8 million patients waiting to start treatment in September 2021, 300,000 wait more than a year and 12,000 wait more than two years.”

However, it warns: “With Covid-related measures such as social distancing and staff self-isolation that are limiting NHS capacity, we’ve heard it is extremely difficult to accurately quantify the true extent of the backlog.”

While MPs welcomed government funding to carry out an additional 9 million checks, scans and surgeries, they said NHS England still needs to show “how to meet its staffing needs”.

They added, “Without better short- and long-term workforce planning, we don’t believe the 9 million additional checks, tests and treatments are feasible.

“We find that there are currently 93,000 vacancies for NHS positions and bottlenecks in almost all disciplines. We are still not convinced that there are enough plans for hiring and retaining employees.

‘We are also concerned about the nursing staff, who currently have 105,000 job vacancies and a turnover rate of 28.5 percent.

Tory MP Jeremy Hunt, committee chairman and former health secretary, said, “Our report finds that a completely predictable staffing crisis could derail the government’s recovery plans.

“The NHS will do little more than fight the fire every day unless the government realizes the magnitude of the personnel crisis and urgently develops a long-term plan to address the problem.”

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