Andrew Mitchell backs an amendment to the Health and Care Bill that requires the Government to regularly publish assessments of future workforce needs and plan for that health and care workforce to be met.
I draw the House’s attention to my interests, which are set out in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, and to the fact that my wife is an NHS GP and has been for the past 30 years.
I rise to support amendment 10, tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt), as it seems to be absolutely right. I cannot understand why the Minister, an extremely good Minister, is not obliging the Government to accept it in full. It is clear from what is being said across the House that my right hon. Friend has achieved an unexpected unity. Even brilliant junior hospital doctors who in the past have marched against some of his policies are four-square behind what he is saying today and the work his Committee is carrying out so brilliantly.
I wish to make three points about why the House and indeed the Government would be wise to support my right hon. Friend’s amendment today. The first is that, for reasons he has set out eloquently, as has the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), who speaks on these matters for the Scottish National party, burnout in the NHS is an incredibly serious issue. The need for us to project how many people we are going to need in all the different disciplines in the health service has never been greater, and the workforce requirements have never been more uncertain. As has been so eloquently set out, the cost of that uncertainty is paid in locums, with all the difficulties and downsides that have been mentioned.
I wish to quote a note I have had from Dr Rahul Dubb, the lead doctor in Royal Sutton Coldfield. He successfully led the roll-out of the vaccinations in our town hall and he is extremely experienced. He says, “A greater understanding is needed as to why doctors are leaving the profession. It is clearly multi-factorial across the generations. One of the reasons includes pension rules. These penalise staff wanting to work more hours due to capped taxation rules, deterring senior staff from staying, and may lead to a significant exodus from the profession. In these circumstances, it is essential that far more effort is put into projecting future workforce numbers and how many are required to meet future need.” In my judgment, Dr Rahul Dubb is absolutely right in what he is saying.
The second reason is that the Government should listen carefully to what my right hon. Friend has said. During his time as Health Secretary—no one in the House has been so long at the crease and has as much experience as him—he significantly increased the number of doctors who will be trained. We were particularly pleased in Birmingham to see the additional work that Aston University has been able to do to bring those who might have felt themselves excluded from the medical profession into contention, so that they could go to university and achieve their ambition of qualifying as medics. Having that sort of analysis—the analysis that is behind his amendment—is right in securing value for money. I have been dismayed that when we had the measures to increase national insurance earlier this year—this was greatly to the credit of the Government for grasping a nettle that so many have not grasped before—those on the Treasury Bench were extraordinarily disinterested in checking that value for money for this additional taxpayer spend was achieved. When I suggested that we should account to our constituents through the Treasury, making certain that we understood where this £1.2 billion was going, the answer from those on the Treasury Bench was extremely lacklustre. Ensuring value for money and that we get these judgments right will save money and, for the reasons that have been set out, will make medicine and the treatment of our constituents that much safer. As my right hon. Friend set out, the whole sector is united behind this amendment, and the Government should hear that loud and clear.
The third and final reason why I have every intention of supporting my right hon. Friend in the Lobby this afternoon, and why I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to do likewise, is that in this country we have for far too long been pinching doctors from the developing world to make up for the shortfall that he is seeking to address. Long-term planning is vital to stop that. It is grossly irresponsible of this country to pinch doctors from the developing world at any stage, but particularly in the aftermath of a global pandemic, yet that is one of the things we continue to do. It is an abrogation of British international leadership to act in that way. I remind the House that not so long ago more doctors trained in Sierra Leone were practising medicine in Chicago than were practising medicine in Sierra Leone—we cannot ignore that.
For all three of those reasons, I urge the House to support my right hon. Friend and amendment 10 this afternoon.