The Nuffield Trust today warned that the government's planned efficiency savings and seven day service could be derailed because of staff burnout.
The plans to save £22 billion and have a seven day NHS by 2020 will not be realised unless the health service reconnects with staff and develops their skills to better meet changing patient needs, Nuffield Trust said in the briefing Health and social care priorities for the Government: 2015–2020.
The briefing highlights the growing trend of relying on agency staff, problems recruiting and retaining GPs and a rise in staff sick leave due to stress. It argues that these factors suggest that disengagement and burnout could hamper progress.
Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said: “The NHS needs to hit very ambitious efficiency targets, at the same time as fundamentally changing the way care is delivered and moving to a seven day service. That can only be done if it has the right staff in the right places. Yet there are not enough staff to fill gaps in key areas, and we are seeing clear signs of stress and disengagement."
The warning comes as MPs prepare to debate the health elements of the Queen’s Speech and shortly after official figures showed NHS spending on agency workers increased by 31% in just one year.
Edwards said: "Already, the health service has been thrown off course by the massive bill for agency staffing because it can’t get enough permanent nurses to join hospital trusts. Solving these problems doesn’t just mean pledging more doctors and nurses.
He recommended that the government use their current staff "more intelligently" and give more detail on where the efficiency savings will come from and "how it can be achieved in the face of rising patient needs, expensive new drugs, and plans for a seven day NHS."