Labor challenges Hunt to adopt NHS education policy he wanted to ‘observe’ | Budget 2023

Rachel Reeves challenged Jeremy Hunt to find the money for Labour’s plan to double doctor and nurse training posts – pointing out she wanted to “pick up” on opposition politics just two weeks before becoming chancellor.

The shadow chancellor said NHS shortages are causing 1.5 million people who need medical care to say their work is suffering, with new analysis showing it is costing the economy around £700m a year.

Ahead of this month’s spring budget, Reeves wrote to Hunt urging him to adopt Labour’s workforce plan for the NHS, which advocates doubling medical school places to 15,000. doubling the number of qualified district nurses from 700 to 1,400 per year; training 5,000 new health visitors per year; and creating an additional 10,000 nursing and midwifery clinical placements each year. The NHS has a vacancy rate of 10%, or 133,000 posts.

He highlighted Hunt’s comments in his weekly Patient Safety email on September 28 last year, just 15 days before he became chancellor, saying: “Despite my obvious political allegiances, I would be remiss not to mention the fact that Labor has pledged to double the number of medical school places and to recruit additional health visitors and district nurses.

“Raising the position of the medical school was something that the select committee called for in their report on the workforce and so it’s something I very much hope the government will adopt on the basis that clever governments always misrepresent the best ideas of their opponents.” .

The NHS is preparing its own workforce plan at the moment, which in draft is believed to call for a doubling of doctor and nurse training places, but the Treasury has yet to commit to more funding. The Times reported last week that the Treasury is resisting the scale of the proposal on cost grounds.

In her letter, Reeves said a decade of Tory government and the pandemic had left the NHS “not just on its knees but on its face”.

He said Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures suggested more than 1.5 million people believed their wait for NHS treatment was affecting their work negatively and almost a quarter of them – 363,000 people – reported cutting back on working hours them as a result.

Reeves said one in 10 said they stopped working altogether – about 174,000 people – with 9% reporting taking long-term sick leave – amounting to about 142,000 people.

Further analysis of the research shows that this could cost the Treasury £700m a year and employers £14m a week.

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“Now that you are in the role of chancellor, you have the potential to be able to take this Labor policy to benefit not only the NHS but also our economic growth. Growing our economy is vital to raising living standards, creating good jobs across the country and leading again on the world stage,” he said.

When Hunt was health secretary, he increased the number of medical school places from 6,000 to 7,500 and oversaw the creation of five new medical schools in England. During his time as chairman of the Commons health and social care select committee, he produced a report last July warning that the NHS was facing “the biggest workforce crisis in history”.

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