Financial Times: Ministers have last chance to end NHS staffing crisis

This letter was also featured in the Financial Times

As the NHS potentially faces its biggest strike in four decades, we must make no mistake: this cry for change is about more than money (Report, October 17).

As a doctor, I’m aware that the decision to embark on a career in healthcare is rarely a financial one; clinicians are driven by a desire to make a positive difference to people’s lives. So while it goes without saying that our NHS staff deserve to earn a fair wage, they also deserve careers which are sustainable and allow them to make that difference to patients.

Mounting pressures over recent years mean that one in five clinicians is now considering leaving the workforce, with stress and burnout cited as major contributors. No one should be forced to choose between a career they have trained hard for and protecting their own wellbeing. The rising likelihood of strikes must be a wake-up call for decision makers to double down on the major issue of staff retention and work to stem the flood of healthcare workers leaving the NHS.

This means providing the infrastructure for improved flexible working opportunities; allowing clinicians to have a greater say in how, where and when they work. It means giving managers the tools to make this possible without creating additional burdens for hard-working support teams; enabling NHS Trusts to safely and sustainably staff their wards. And this can only happen effectively by working closely with clinicians to understand the pressures and challenges they are facing, including stagnating pay, and responding with genuine change. If they do this, the government might have a chance of turning the tide on the staffing crisis before it’s too late.