The National Health Service in England will get more than 300,000 staff under a new plan announced by the government on Friday to deal with a chronic shortage of doctors and nurses.
The publicly-funded NHS, which marks its 75th birthday on Wednesday, is facing an estimated workforce shortfall of 360,000 by 2037 due to an ageing population, a lack of domestically trained health workers and difficulties retaining existing staff.
The government’s long-term workforce plan would include reducing the time doctors spend in medical school and training more homegrown staff.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “On the 75th anniversary of our health service, this government is making the largest single expansion in NHS education and training in its history.
“In the coming years we will train twice the number of doctors and an extra 24,000 more nurses a year, helping to cut waiting lists and improve patient care.
“We will do more to retain our brilliant NHS staff and reform the way the health system works to ensure it is fit for the future,” he added.
NHS England currently has 112,000 vacancies as it struggles to fill the large number of workers leaving the service.
The NHS has seen unprecedented strikes over the last year, with staff complaining of being underpaid and overworked as they struggle to clear the backlog created during coronavirus lockdowns.
The government says the plan could mean an extra 60,000 doctors, 170,000 more nurses and 71,000 more health professionals in the NHS by 2037.
“The publication of our first-ever NHS long-term workforce plan now gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put staffing on sustainable footing for the years to come,” said NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard.
“As we look to adapt to new and rising demand for health services globally, this long-term blueprint is the first step in a major and much-needed expansion of our workforce to ensure we have the staff we need to deliver for patients.”
Health is a devolved matter, with the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland setting policy there. The UK government oversees health in England.