New UK Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey has announced a plan for the NHS over this winter and the next. It promises to improve waiting times for GP appointments, with £500 million in extra social care to help medically fit patients leave hospital with home-based support.
While this sounds like good news, it cannot work without substantial international recruitment of medical professionals. The hiring of non-UK based care workers, pharmacists, and senior nurses are essential to ensuring Coffey’s aims succeed.
Part of the reason is the new Adult Social Discharge Care Fund, intended to free up hospital beds. Currently there are 13,000 patients in hospital who are fit enough to receive care in the community. However, with not enough community-based care workers in place, the patients remain in hospital. Meanwhile, their bed space is badly needed.
‘Local health and care partners will be able to decide how best to use the social care funding to improve hospital discharge, and to retain and recruit social care staff,’ the UK government said last week.
This recruitment will almost certainly be focused in large part overseas, as there will be funding of £15 million to help increase international recruitment of care workers. That fund will help local areas support care providers with activities such as visa processing, accommodation, and pastoral support.
In addition, to reduce GP appointment waiting times, the government aims to switch some of the GPs’ workload to pharmacists, while GPs will also be allowed to recruit senior nurses.
It’s well known that the NHS is woefully understaffed. With almost 1 in 10 posts vacant, lack of personnel is a key reason as to why the UK’s health service is struggling. The government’s plan is unworkable, because there are not enough staff to plug the gap.
There is only one solution: hefty international recruitment. Medical professionals from outside the UK will be essential in making sure the NHS stays afloat this winter, and the next.
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