RCoA response to the Autumn Statement

We welcome the government’s commitment to publish a comprehensive long-term workforce plan for the NHS, including independently verified forecasts for the number of doctors, nurses and other professionals that will be needed over the next 5, 10 and 15 years. This is something for which we have long advocated and we are pleased those calls have been heard. Alongside this, we need to see a commitment to providing the necessary funding and training places to deliver that plan.    

Staff shortages are at the root of most of the current pressures in the NHS. Within our own specialty, there is a shortage of at least 1,400 anaesthetists across the UK, which is limiting the ability to reduce waiting lists and deliver timely and effective patient care. It also puts our members and their colleagues under unsustainable pressure and at increased risk of burnout.

Similar workforce shortages within social care are exacerbating the problems in our hospitals, and we are pleased to see the Chancellor announce additional funding to support this workforce and to help promote timely discharge of patients from hospitals into social care. Our health and care system is a continuum and we need to see that reflected in workforce planning.

At a time when staff retention is more important than ever, there is also an urgent need for the government to reform the current pension tax system, which is forcing many experienced consultants to reduce their hours or to retire early. We urge the government to consider this in its broader review of barriers to workforce participation.   

Dr Fiona Donald, President