Charities and health experts have expressed dismay that Jeremy Hunt “did not acknowledge” the “NHS workforce crisis” in his Budget.
Health bodies said it was “incredibly disappointing” that the Chancellor, and former health secretary, did not not use the opportunity to introduce a new NHS workforce plan, which many were expecting to feature in the speech.
Instead, Mr Hunt told the House of Commons that the workforce plan, which was initially promised in the autumn statement, would be published “shortly”.
Commenting, Eve Byrne, director of advocacy at the charity Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “It is incredibly disappointing that the NHS workforce crisis was not acknowledged as part of today’s spring Budget.
“The Chancellor had an opportunity to throw a lifeline to cancer services but instead chose not to, disregarding the needs of people living with cancer.”
Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, added: “While some measures announced in the Budget will help with NHS staff retention issues, they do not go nearly far enough to address the acute NHS workforce crisis.
“The upcoming Government workforce plan will need major new investment to be a success, and we did not hear this in the Budget – this was a missed opportunity.”
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “We are facing a staffing crisis in the NHS and this Budget does not provide any further clarity on how the Government is going to address it.
“We are just two weeks out from the start of the new financial year but don’t yet know the impact of any pay award on the NHS’s already constrained budget.
“The Government and unions remain in talks, and we wait to see if a deal can be reached.
“The NHS currently has funding for a 3.5% increase next year, but with rumours of a potential pay award of 5% or above, this could leave the NHS with a budget hole of anything up to £2 billion.
“We are clear that this cannot be funded from within existing budgets as it would almost certainly result in cutbacks to patient care elsewhere.”
Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, added: “It was disappointing that the Chancellor didn’t announce further detail on the long-awaited fully funded, long-term national workforce plan which the NHS so desperately needs.
“We will hold him to his word on publishing the plan shortly, in the expectation that it will be appropriately detailed, with staff numbers, costs and funding to match. There must be no more delays.”
Patricia Marquis, director for England for the Royal College of Nursing, added: “Jeremy Hunt is on the record less than a year ago raising the alarm over the greatest workforce crisis in NHS history but as Chancellor he is not yet gripping it.”
Chairman of the House of Commons’s Health and Social Care Committee, Steve Brine, said: “The health and social care sectors cannot function effectively without a workforce strategy to meet future demand.
“This committee has repeatedly urged ministers to produce a workforce plan and we look forward to it being published shortly, as promised today.”
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