Train more medics to cut £6bn locum bill, Jeremy Hunt urges No 10

Britain should train more medics to help cut its £6bn locum bill, Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary, has said. 

Mr Hunt, chairman of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, is calling for independent assessments to be published every two years setting out staffing needs.

On Tuesday, he said the Government was unlikely to accept his amendment – saying they were too focussed on immediate costs, rather than long-term savings. 

"At the moment I don’t think we do train enough doctors and nurses. We have 93,000 vacancies, shortages in every single specialty," he told Sky News.

Mr Hunt said wrangling between the Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Care tended to focus on short-term issues rather than longer-term workforce planning.

‘Number of doctors you are going to have in seven years is never top of the list’

"In every spending review the Chancellor and the Health Secretary have extensive discussions but their immediate priorities are things like cancer treatments and A&E departments," he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

"The number of doctors we are going to have in seven, eight, nine years’ time is never top of the list."

Asked what the Government’s response was to his call, he said: "They are saying that they will look at it, but actually they are unlikely to accept this amendment today.

Jeremy Hunt says discussions between the Treasury and Health Department tend to focus on short-term issues rather than long-term workforce planning

Credit: JESSICA TAYLOR/UK PARLIAMENT/AFP/Getty Images

"They are worried about cost, but all I would say is that – yes, this will mean that we train more doctors, but for every additional doctor we train that is one less locum that we are having to hire in our hospitals."

He added: "We spend about 6 billion pounds a year on locums… far too much money and locums are not good for hospitals, are not good for patients because you don’t have that continuity of care. So this will be a tiny fraction of that amount."

The debate on the funding comes after Monday night’s crunch vote on the social care cap, which saw ministers see off a Tory revolt.

No 10 sees off Tory revolt to social care cap amendment

The Prime Minister narrowly succeeded in getting MPs to back his new policy to cap care costs in England, but his majority was slashed.

Ministers were unable to say whether the change to the £86,000 cap on care costs would fulfil an election pledge to guarantee no-one would have to sell their home to pay for care.

Backbench Tory critics joined experts and Labour MPs in warning that the move to count only individual payments towards the cap, and not local authority contributions, would cost poorer recipients more in assets than the wealthy.

MPs backed the amendment 272 votes to 246; a majority of 26.

However, the Prime Minister’s working majority of around 80 MPs was slashed, as 19 Conservatives including former Cabinet minister Esther McVey and ex-chief whip Mark Harper rebelled to oppose the plans. While another 68 Tories did not vote for the amendment at all, either because they abstained or could not vote.

Mr Hunt was among the Conservatives who abstained, arguing that he felt "conflicted" because although the cap was an improvement on the current situation, it was less generous than had originally been expected.

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