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Health and Care Bill 2021

The Health and Care Bill is currently moving through Parliament, and it sets out a range of reforms to the health and care system in England. 

However, the Bill does not currently address the fact that Government is not legally required to fix the nursing workforce crisis.  

There are around 40,000 registered nurse vacancies in the NHS in England alone. But this is not just about the NHS. We want to make sure that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in Westminster is legally accountable for planning of the whole of the health, social care, and public health nursing workforce in England. 

The current situation is unsustainable. The Health Secretary must be held to account for ensuring there are enough nursing staff – now and in the future – for health and care services to cope with demand and provide safe care. 

Without this accountability for the workforce, nursing staff will continue to be overworked and overstretched, unable to deliver to patients the care they desperately want to give, and patients deserve.  

To address the nursing workforce crisis: 

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care must have legal accountability for workforce planning and supply. 
The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care must publish projections of the workforce needed to deliver health and social care services based on the expected needs of the population, now and in future. 

The RCN is demanding several priorities are addressed in the Bill, as it moves through the Commons and the Lords. These include: 

  • legal accountability for workforce planning and supply
  • published workforce projections based on the expected needs of the population, now and in future   
  • nursing representation on Integrated Care Partnership boards 
  • healthcare professionals remaining protected to raise concerns  
  • new payment schemes for services reflecting the true value and contribution of nursing   
  • nursing remaining with a profession-specific regulator 

For more information, read our briefing.

Members of the House of Lords are currently debating the Health and Care Bill at its Committee stage. Committee stage is where the Bill is scrutinised and debated in detail.   

In the last stage, Second Reading, Peers from all sides of the House raised the issue of workforce planning and noted that the Bill as it stood would not be sufficient to tackle the staffing crisis. They also echoed RCN concerns about the need to tackle health inequalities, pay NHS and care staff fairly, and ensure that reforms to the structures of the NHS worked for staff and patients. 

Next steps

Thank you to all our members and supporters who wrote to their MP ahead of the Health and Care Bill Report Stage. We will continue to work with our members, stakeholders, and MPs to influence the bill.