NHS staff boost ‘won’t fix A&E crisis’

By Phoebe Cooke

The NHS' accident and emergency (A&E) crisis will not be solved quickly enough by the coalition's staff training announcements, Labour has said.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced new plans earlier which will see 50% of medical students trained as family GPs by 2015.

The measures are contained in a £5 billion budget plan mandated by the Department of Health (DoH) to Health Education England 'to improve training, values and education of all NHS staff over the next two years and beyond'.

Health minister Dr Dan Poulter, a qualified doctor, commented: "Today's mandate to Health Education England, backed by a £5 billion budget, will help our many dedicated frontline staff to further improve their ability to care for patients as well as enabling our NHS to train the next generation of doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants."

As well as increasing the number of GPs from 40 to 50%, the new measures also include a significant increase in dementia training and a push to get more medical students working in accident and emergency services (A&E). Currently there is no lack of students training to become GPs, whereas A&E is markedly under-subscribed.

But Labour said the NHS' staffing crisis was one of David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt's own making, as 4,000 nursing posts have been cut since the coalition came to power.

"It takes years to train GPs and nurses and he needs to urgently address the immediate crisis in A&E," shadow health minister Jamie Reed said.

"[Hunt] has wasted weeks casting around for scapegoats and blaming GPs instead of taking control and sorting out the A&E crisis his government have created."

Health Education England (HEE) was first mooted in April 2010 by Andrew Lansley, as part of the coalition's controversial health reforms. It is an independent institution which will have to meet certain governmental mandates, such as the measures announced today by the Department of Health.

The emphasis today was on increasing the amount of care-giving in communities. The document, described by the Department of Health as 'a blueprint for NHS staff training', is aligned with the mandate for NHS England, prioritising the tackling of preventable deaths; introducing a culture of caring; improving the treatment of dementia, and treating long-term conditions.