The NHS is in crisis thanks to the Conservative government and Brexit is likely to make the situation worse. Since 2010 when the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government came to power hospital admissions have risen by a third. In the winter A&E units could not cope with the pressure. Bed blocking because of cut backs in community based social care is causing hospitals to close their doors to new patients. Almost one third of junior doctors leave the NHS after two years, and last year 6,000 applied to work overseas.
The UK faces a double whammy of an ageing nursing workforce caring for an ageing population. The Royal College of Nursing says that by 2020 nearly half of nurses will be eligible for retirement. Hospitals cannot afford to recruit to fill vacancies and the number of nurses per capita is falling. Nurses are leaving the NHS because of fatigue and poor pay. The government’s boom and bust approach to staff training has seen the NHS rely on overseas recruitment, conveniently shifting the costs of training from the UK government’s books and onto those of other nations.
Meanwhile, applications from English students to study nursing fell by 23 per cent this year following the axing of the nursing bursary. The government is replacing the bursary with a loan, justifying the move by saying that universities will no longer have to restrict training places according to the number of bursaries they can afford. The Prime Minister has misleadingly claimed that 10,000 new training places are available now – the figure is up to 10,000 by 2020, and there is no guarantee that all these new places will be in nursing.
In 2016, 57,000 NHS staff were from EU countries. Our government has given no guarantee to these vital workers that they can stay post-Brexit, and hospitals are reporting that they are already returning home or turning down opportunities to come and work here. People who voted for Brexit might be happy with this situation and argue that we should train enough people from this country to work in the NHS. If this is what they want they shouldn’t vote Conservative because their record proves they will not fund enough training places to save the NHS.
The Green Party will ensure that sufficient training places for all types of clinician are available to support future health care needs. We will fight for a publicly funded, publicly provided health service free at the point of use and end the creeping privatisation of the NHS.