Ensuring that we have a well-staffed NHS, caring for patients around the clock, is of utmost importance. The staff in the NHS provide our country with an invaluable service, and I believe that they should be supported accordingly.
I recognise that leaving the EU may impact staffing in the NHS. However, this Government has repeatedly made it clear that it values and respects the work done by EU nationals working in the health service. The Health Secretary is confident that all EU nationals working in Britain will be able to remain in the country with the same rights that they enjoy today so they can continue to play a vital role - not only in the NHS, but as our friends, family and fellow citizens. I was also encouraged to hear that the Prime Minister recently wrote of her gratitude to the EU citizens working in this country, and stated that "I couldn't be clearer: EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay", under an agreement which will provide certainty about residency, healthcare, pensions, and other benefits.
However, it is only sensible for the Government to make long term plans for NHS staffing. Instead of relying on clinical staff from abroad, I agree with the Secretary of State for Health that we must increase the number of home-grown NHS staff. You may be aware that there has been a recent expansion of both the number of medical schools and the number of medical school places in the UK. This will allow the training of the extra doctors needed because of the ageing of the medical workforce, the need for more doctors due to advances in healthcare, and the ageing and expansion of the UK population. Such expansion of doctor numbers is long overdue: despite massive Consultant expansion over the last 15 years, a recent survey showed that over 20% of Consultant posts could not be appointed because of insufficient high quality applicants.
I also fully support plans to increase nursing, midwifery and allied health pre-registration training positions by up to 10,000 by 2020, and broaden routes into nursing through the expansion of Nursing Associates and the introduction of Nurse Degree Apprenticeships, which will open up careers in nursing to people from all backgrounds. It is pleasing to note that there are currently record numbers of nurses working in the NHS: since May 2010, the number of nurses and health visitors has increased by over 14,000, with an additional 52,000 in training.
Training more doctors and nurses in the UK will also help developing countries, who for too long have seen their home-trained medical professionals leave soon after qualifying, thus denying those countries staff they desperately need to develop their own healthcare systems. These plans announced by the Health Secretary will therefore ensure that the NHS is able to provide sustainable, high quality service in the long term while helping developing countries to do the same.