The BDA welcomes the £3.3billion additional investment in NHS England for each of the next two years announced in the Autumn Statement, with further money being made available to the Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, we are disappointed that there is nothing in the statement to address the real-term cuts to NHS workers’ pay since 2010. As we head into this winter, we feel the strain on our NHS service once again and we need to ensure that the NHS has the funding it needs to be effective.
In 2019 there were 100,000 vacancies in the NHS, which has now risen to around 130,000. While we welcome this much needed investment, we feel that the Government can and must go further. The Chancellor stated he wants the UK to have a “Scandinavian quality” of service. If the UK Government’s welcomed ambition is for a Scandinavian level of service, then it is vital that the Government matches this ambition with the Scandinavian levels of investment and spending per-capita necessary to deliver this. Without real investment in the NHS workforce, the crisis of recruitment and retention, rising waiting lists and cancelled procedures cannot be addressed.
The Chancellor’s announcement that the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) will conduct and publish an independent, verified workforce plan within health and social is a positive step in the right direction for the Government. We will be advocating for proper recognition of the contribution of dietitians, dietetic support workers and other allied health professionals in this process.
We have heard from our members the issues of patient safety, overwork, and sustainability highlighted by the current workforce crisis and are glad to see that the Government is taking this vital workforce issue seriously. The BDA urges the DHSC to ensure that Allied Health Professions, including dietitians and dietetic support workers, have a prominent place within this plan and how we can improve recruitment, retention, and progression within these professions. This should include programmes such as the expansion of prescribing rights across the NHS to deliver a common-sense policy that would make the NHS more efficient. We also call on the DHSC to publish the timeline for this urgently needed plan as soon as possible.
At the heart of the statement was the issues facing our economy namely inflation and a cost-of-living crisis – so it is disappointing that pay for NHS staff did not feature. Health care workers, including dietitians, put their lives on the line during the Covid pandemic despite over a decade of falling pay. But as the cost-of-living crisis bites, the same workers are struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes, and even keep a roof over their heads. This statement does nothing to address this. That is why the BDA Trade Union is about to launch a ballot of members in England and Wales on industrial action to demand a pay award that addresses the real terms cuts over the last 12 years, along with the crisis in recruitment and retention. We are actively engaged with our members on this issue, you can read how and get in involved here.
BDA CEO, Liz Stockley stated, “The statement by the Chancellor is a move in the right direction for our NHS, and we will always welcome more funding to support our members in the vital work that they do. The Government can and must go further though in order to get our NHS through the crisis that it is facing today, with a workforce that is recognised for their commitment through a decent pay rise. We are ready to work with the Government to deliver a reformed and modern health and social care system that can face the problems of today, tomorrow, and beyond.”