The NHS always needs to be careful when spending public money, but sometimes there are things that money can’t buy.
There are several groups of staff which the NHS has traditionally relied upon, but which are now increasingly hard to find. Most people know there is a growing shortage of GPs, but there are other emerging gaps – fewer senior doctors choosing to work in emergency care, for example, and experienced nursing staff are also more difficult to recruit than ever.
If the staff don’t exist, you can’t recruit them. Locally some GP practices are already struggling to find new doctors to join them when colleagues have retired.
Part of the answer lies at a national level – ensuring that enough training places are available, and looking at particular roles to ensure that they can attract the best possible candidates.
Part of the answer lies at a local level – ensuring that staff receive the right support, and have the best possible resources, so that they choose to work in this area rather than elsewhere.
But... training more staff takes years, and trying to attract candidates to work locally rather than elsewhere still doesn’t alter the basic fact that in some important staff groups there simply aren’t enough people to do all of the work which has traditionally been expected of them.
Given that, the local NHS needs to look again at what staff are being asked to do, and what patients want from their health service. Just because people have always gone to a GP for their back pain, or their repeat prescriptions, or their medicine reviews, does that automatically mean that a GP is the best, or the only, person for that task?
And similarly, if the local NHS cannot recruit the same number of highly-specialised staff as it has done in the past, then what should the response be? How does the NHS make sure that patients with the most complex, or urgent, needs are still seen quickly by those with the most expertise?
So how should the local NHS respond to these changes? Tell us: “Your Big Health Conversation – talk to us”