Top doctor calls on government to ‘stop disincentivising’ NHS staff

A leading doctor has called on the government to “stop disincentivising” NHS staff with pay restraint and increasing target-led pressures.

Dr Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine (SAM), said although financial rewards were not the only issue to encourage the workforce to remain, “salaries must be fair”.

He spoke out following Downing Street’s confirmation 1% rises agreed this year for nurses, doctors, dentists and the military will not be revisited despite growing pressure from ministers including health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

“We are pleased to see the mood music begin to change within the government as removing the pay cap on NHS staff, especially the lowest paid, is long overdue,” he explained.

“However, financial rewards are not the only issue to encourage our workforce to remain in the NHS – staff need to feel truly valued and actions are greater than words after all.

“The most important resource for patients is the people caring for them.”

Dr Holland said clinical work was “stressful enough” so extra pressure to meet targets must be eased.

“A delayed discharge in a patient waiting for social care deprives a surgical patient of their bed, so having the support and infrastructure in place to discharge medically-fit patients safely is essential,” he said.

“However, despite all the increasing winter issues we’ve seen over the past few years, that has not happened – though the emphasis on targets has grown.

“Extra pressure to meet targets must be eased on frontline staff.

“In 2006, David Cameron debated the complexities of pressures facing younger people, famously interpreted as ‘hug a hoodie’.

“We call on our current government to show the same level of understanding when deciding how they should treat our most precious resource – for NHS staff, a little love will go a long way.”

He added: “It is time to stop disincentivising staff – salaries must be fair, working conditions must be safe and sustainable and clear career pathways must be in place.

“When my best colleagues say ‘enough is enough’ and vote with their feet to leave frontline care, I feel angry with a system that fails to appreciate what it is losing.”

SAM is the national representative body for the specialty of acute medicine, which deals with the immediate and early treatment of adult patients with a variety of medical conditions who present to hospital as emergencies.

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