Amanda Pritchard, NHS England’s chief executive since August, started her first hearing before MPs with a bang as she warned we ‘need to recognise that we are in for a difficult winter’
The new boss of the NHS has told MPs there “obviously isn’t enough” staff and warned “we are in for a tough winter”.
Amanda Pritchard took over as chief executive of NHS England in August and made the comments in her first appearance before MPs.
Giving evidence before the Health and Social Care Committee she was asked about independent analysis showing the NHS is short of 4,000 doctors and 18,000 nurses.
Ms Pritchard said overall staff numbers had been increasing, but added: “I think it is absolutely critical that we recognise… obviously that isn’t enough.”
Prof Stephen Powis, NHS England’s medical director, said: “We do need more doctors.
“The UK has 2.8 Doctors per 100,000 of the population, the European average is 3.7 and the OECD average is 3.5.
“We do need to increase all clinical staff.”
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Ms Pritchard was promoted from within the NHS to replace Sir Simon Stevens as the first female chief executive in August.
The committee was convened to discuss how the NHS can clear its record 5.7 million treatment backlog amid rising Covid and flu cases.
The Government has recently pledged more NHS funding but only around half of what NHS trust leaders had said would be needed.
Mr Pritchard told MPs: “I think we are in for a tough winter.
“We are trying to make sure we do absolutely everything we can to use the money we’ve got wisely as we can to continue to do the elective work in a protected way, but I think we just need to recognise that we are in for a difficult winter.”
The Government has recently announced a National Insurance hike on workers to fund a Health and Social Care Levy.
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It will raise an additional £6.6 billion for NHS England in 2022−23 and £3.6 billion in 2023−24.
NHS Providers, which represents trust leaders, had estimated the NHS needed an extra £10 billion annually to “live with Covid” and clear the 5.7 million treatment backlog.
Ms Pritchard was pushed on whether the funding pledged would be enough to clear the NHS waiting list.
She said: “I think it’s very difficult for us to say at this point in time, what will happen around the number of people who will now come back into the NHS seeking treatment who didn’t over the period of the pandemic.
“Indeed it will be very difficult for us as we sit here now to total certainty what this winter is going to look like and what the course of the pandemic is going to be.
“So I think we know that we’ve got a really secure place from which to build and where we can absolutely now deliver the elective, or significant improvement in our elective activity.
“How that will translate into the backlog, I think would be very difficult to say at this stage.”
Prof Powis added: “The good news is we have certainty of revenue, difficult with at the moment is that we don’t have certainty of demand and I think that is just where we are in the pandemic at the moment.”