AS the NHS is in a staffing crisis, with a shortage of doctors, nurses and midwives crippling the health service across the country, we look at the situation in Oxfordshire and how it changed over the last few years.

A recent report from a cross-part group of MPs led by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Government must tackle "the greatest workforce crisis in history in the NHS" but that at the moment has no credible strategy to make the situation better.

It also said that research by the Nuffield Trust shows the NHS in England is short of 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives.

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We have taken a look at the latest NHS staff figures for Oxford University Hospitals Trust, which runs the Churchill Hospital, John Radcliffe Hospital and Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Oxford and the Horton General Hospital in Banbury.

Witney Gazette: The John Radcliffe HospitalThe John Radcliffe Hospital (Image: Ed Nix)


At the trust, there were 258 midwives in April, down from 279 last year, in line with the situation nationally, where the number of midwives decreased – the figures show there were the equivalent of 21,741 working full-time hours in April, down from 22,374 last year.

It comes as the report says 2,000 more midwives are urgently needed to address staffing shortages.

The Royal College of Midwives said people are leaving the industry because "morale is shattered".

Suzanne Tyler, executive director at the RCM, said: "Employers and the Government must step up, put in the resources, and show they really value their staff."


The figures show there were the equivalent of 1,900 full-time doctors as of April at the trust.

This was up from 1,876 last year and 1,587 in April 2016 – when comparable figures for all professions began – equating to a rise of 20 per cent over the last six years.

But the committee’s report said the NHS must still recruit a further 12,000 hospital doctors to address a current national shortfall.

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The British Medical Association called on the Government to publish workforce projections, reduce medicine's gender pay gap and increase the supply of affordable childcare.

Emma Runswick, the BMA deputy chair of council, said: "If the Government continues to ignore this – or continued warnings from reports like this – the impact on health professionals, patients and the very health of our society does not bear thinking about."

Witney Gazette: The Churchill HospitalThe Churchill Hospital

Nurses and health visitors

The figures also show there were 3,488 nurses and health visitors at the trust in April. This is up from 3,298 last year and 3,157 at the start of the pandemic.

But the committee said there is a vast shortage of nurses nationally, with the NHS needing to urgently recruit more than 50,000 nurses and midwives.

The Royal College of Nursing said persistent understaffing "poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety" and urged the Government to take immediate action.

Patricia Marquis, director of the RCN, said the report, which highlighted unacceptable pay for some NHS nurses who are struggling to feed their families and pay their rent, "should make the Government rethink the latest pay deal that follows a decade of real terms pay cuts".

Understaffing is not the only issue

However, understaffing is not the only issue facing the NHS workforce. At the trust, 5.3% of full-time staff days were lost due to sickness absence in March. In March 2019, the rate stood at 3.1 per cent.

The RCN said that the high absence figures were "yet more evidence of the need for drastic action and investment in the nursing workforce".

The Department of Health and Social Care said it has commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term workforce plan.

A spokesperson said: "We are growing the health and social care workforce, with over 4,000 more doctors, and 9,600 more nurses compared to last year, and over 1,400 more doctors in general practice compared to March 2019.

"As we continue to deliver on our commitment to recruit 50,000 more nurses by 2024, we are also running a £95 million recruitment drive for maternity services."

Andrew Carter, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer, Oxford University Hospitals said: “Recruitment and retention of staff to our organisation remains a key priority in terms of providing excellent, compassionate care.

“Issues around staffing levels in Maternity services are not unique to us here at OUH, however we continue to explore workforce models, with ongoing local and international recruitment underway.”

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This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers. 

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