NHS ‘could lose 38,000 jobs’

The NHS could lose 38,000 jobs, including frontline staff such as doctors and nurses, according to a leaked report.

The figures come from a document written in November for a Department of Health (DoH) meeting in December which has been seen by the Heath Service Journal.

According to the leak, the draft NHS pay and workforce strategy predicts a shortfall of 1,200 GPs, 14,000 nurses and 1,100 junior and staff-grade doctors by 2011.

But while there are set to be a series of shortages in some positions, there will also be 3,200 consultants who the NHS cannot afford to pay for on top of 16,200 other health professionals that are not needed, including physiotherapists and radiographers.

The DOH said the analysis was at an early stage, it would consult relevant groups before making any changes, and some of these ideas would be “dropped” while other “will become policy”.

When the document is finalised, it will be included in the chancellor’s comprehensive spending review this summer.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley calculates that the leaked draft of the NHS pay and workforce strategy for 2008 to 2011 could see 38,000 people lose their jobs

“This latest fiasco in workforce planning is the bleakest possible start to 2007 for the NHS,” he said.

“By cynically using the misery of unemployment to cut pay in the NHS, Labour ministers are making hardworking doctors and nurses pay for governmental incompetence. The effect on morale will be dire.”

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, added that the document’s forecast for “massive” cuts in the number of consultant doctors was a result of previous policy mistakes.

“The impact of the government’s botched reform of the consultant contract is now worryingly clear – the NHS is unable to afford all the specialist doctors it needs,” he said.

“The government seems willing to allow doctors to join the dole queue or downgrade their responsibilities in order to deal with their own chronic mismanagement of the NHS.”

Doctors’ groups were not too impressed either.

Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) consultants’ committee, commented: “If these really are the views of Department of Health advisors, then they are seriously out of touch with the NHS.

“They seem determined to destroy the ethos and values of the NHS, which the profession and patients cherish so dearly, and are so essential to its survival.”

But the DoH rejected claims that its analysis revealed a new crisis.

“It is only prudent and sensible to analyse what the workforce make-up should be to meet those challenges,” a spokesman said.

“To portray a responsible piece of planning as another ‘crisis for the NHS story’ is alarmist mischief-making on a grand scale.”

The spokesman added that the report was “at an early stage”, and the ideas in the paper were “very much what any health expert would be expecting the department to be considering”.

“We have already been in discussion with unions and other partners on the issues and we will of course consult with stakeholders as the thinking develops.

“Some of these ideas will be dropped and some will become policy.”