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Health and Care Bill: peers vote for legal duty on workforce assessment, but it doesn’t go far enough, insists RCN

3 Mar 2022

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care must be made accountable for fixing the nursing workforce crisis.


Today, members of the House of Lords voted to make amendments to the Health and Care Bill, including to require the regular publication of NHS and social care workforce projections in England. 

These projections can provide the basis for robust health and care workforce planning, which has been lacking for many years.

The RCN, alongside 100 other organisations, supported the amendment tabled by Baroness Cumberlege, which will return to the House of Commons for MPs to vote on again. 

With a further amendment, RCN members lobbied hard to make the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care accountable for the planning and supply of the health and care workforce. This was carried by Baronesses Bennett and Jones, but did not get voted on. 

The RCN has carried this demand throughout the Health and Care Bill process, and we’re disappointed again today. Political decision-makers have chosen not to set out a legal requirement in this bill for accountability with the Secretary of State to provide both the supply and funding needed to ensure there are enough nursing staff to deliver safe and effective care.

RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: "On the same day the NHS in England revealed 39,652 unfilled nurse posts, members of the House of Lords voted for the government to act transparently and regularly set out the health and care workforce gaps.

"But this doesn't go far enough. Our members today are urging the government to act in the interest of patients. The Secretary of State must do more than be transparent about the issues. He must accept full accountability for resolving the vacancy crisis within the nursing workforce.

“An acceptance of accountability will go some way to demonstrating to the nursing profession that the Secretary of State hears their concerns and is willing to take responsibility for action.

"If the government continues to ignore the voice of nursing, it is ignoring the voice of patients. Without enough nursing professionals, safe and effective patient care is simply impossible to deliver."

The Health and Care Bill sets out a package of reforms to the health and care system in England. Since the introduction of the bill, the RCN has been campaigning for amendments to tackle workforce issues, and a range of other areas which RCN members have said are important to the profession. 

When the bill was being debated in the House of Commons, RCN members and members of the public sent 4,423 emails to MPs backing changes to the legislation. 

The bill is currently in report stage in the House of Lords, and when this concludes the bill will move back to the House of Commons in a stage often called “ping pong”. 

During this period, the House of Commons is only able to amend either what has been put into the bill, or stripped out, by the House of Lords. The UK government has said that the bill is likely to receive Royal Assent and be passed into law directly following this process. 


Page last updated - 03/03/2022