Tuesday, 26 June 2018
There are just over 10,000 doctors working in our public health service. That is the highest number ever. I accept that demand is higher than ever as well, but it is not the case that the number of doctors working in our public health service is falling. In fact, it is increasing and is its highest point ever. Nursing numbers did go down considerably of foot of the cutbacks during the recession. We have approximately 1,000 more nurses than we had this time last year, so, again, we are going in the right direction. That is not to dismiss for a second the fact that posts are unfilled or that we have serious problems with recruitment and retention in different parts of the health service. However, it would be factually untrue to say that the number of doctors or nurses working in our health service is falling. The number of doctors working in our public health service is at an all-time high. The number of nurses working in our public health service is increasing. We must able put it in that factual context. People are entitled to their own opinions; they are not entitled to their own facts.
I will describe what we are doing other than pay restoration, which is now very much under way, with two pay increases this year and two more next year - that is before increments. We have specifically given the Public Service Pay Commission the job of examining the issues of recruitment and retention, looking at where in the health service there genuinely is a recruitment and retention problem, where there is not, where it is the result of maldeployment and where particular incentives may need to be put in place for certain grades and professions. It is not an issue across the board. It applies in some places, some professions and some posts. If we really care about ensuring that taxpayers' money is well spent and goes toward patient care, we need to make sure that we have targeted recruitment and retention incentives, not blanket ones across the board whereby the money would not go to the patient.