The government’s long-awaited NHS workforce plan appears to have been delayed as rumours circulate that it is too expensive.
According to deputy chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery, the plan, which was expected for publication imminently, has been delayed further.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Cordery said the plan will require ‘a very significant commitment of funding’ from the government.
Health secretary Steve Barclay also declined to provide a deadline for publication during interviews over the weekend, according to The Guardian.
The workforce plan, which has already been delayed from last year, is expected to put forward solutions to address NHS understaffing, including expanding medical school places and potentially training apprentice doctors directly on the job.
Ms Cordery said: ‘We know that when it comes, it will be a very significant commitment of funding from the government because what we’re talking about is setting out the number of training places and the number of staff that the NHS needs over the next decade or so.’
Of the delay, she added: ‘What everyone has been calling for, and what Jeremy Hunt committed to in his autumn statement last year and indeed talked about in the spring budget, was a fully funded and fully articulated workforce plan for the NHS.
‘So I think that we are talking about something to do with the funding of this plan.’
The Times has also reported that disagreements over cost, which is believed to be in the tens of billions, have delayed publication of the plan.
A senior NHS source was quoted by the newspaper as saying that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt ‘can’t agree the financial commitment’ and that it ‘was all set to go this week and now the PM wants to run through it in detail’.
In March, reports of the plan revealed it would highlight that the health service is already operating with 154,000 fewer full-time staff than it needs and that number could balloon to 571,000 staff by 2036 on current trends.
The leaked report also said that without ‘radical action’, the NHS in England will have 28,000 fewer GPs, 44,000 fewer community nurses and an even greater lack of paramedics within 15 years.
The government’s recent primary care recovery plan unveiled £645m investment in community pharmacy to be split between funding the existing NHS Pharmacy Contraception and Hypertension Case-Finding services, a new national Pharmacy First scheme and investment in IT services to give pharmacies greater access to patient notes.