Report published 11 May 2016. Government response published 21 July 2016.
The NHS employs nearly 800,000 clinical staff, including doctors, nurses and midwives. The costs relating to managing NHS staff numbers are significant with, for example, Health Education England spending £5 billion each year on training new staff and NHS bodies spending some £3.3 billion on temporary staffing in 2014–15 to cover shortfalls. Ensuring there are the right number of staff is essential to the delivery of high quality, safe and healthcare, and the effective and efficient operation of the NHS.
The National Audit Office is conducting a study examining whether clinical staff numbers in the NHS are being effectively managed, covering both long-term workforce planning and how short-term shortfalls in staffing are being addressed. They are reviewing: how local trusts assess their future need for staff, taking account of factors such as guidance on safe staffing and the need to secure efficiency savings; and how Health Education England uses local plans to develop a national workforce plan and commission training places. They will also set out how trusts are addressing short-term shortfalls in staffing, through the use of agency staff, overseas recruitment and return to work initiatives.
The NAO expect the report to: highlight the current pressures on the NHS as a whole, and on particular groups of staff or geographical areas; make clear who is responsible for addressing these pressures; and provide assurance on whether workforce plans are reasonable and future-proofed to account for financial pressures and policies on service re-design.
The Public Accounts Committee will be holding an inquiry on the basis of the report, hearing from a range of NHS and Health representatives about the issues raised.