A new independent body to help NHS workers deal with stress and ensure patient safety is on the cards. Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham reveals all to Sunday People political editor Nigel Nelson
Labour is to create a new independent NHS body to protect health workers if it wins the General Election.
They will be known as NHS staff champions and be the first port of call for whistleblowers who believe patient safety is at risk.
They will also deal with allegations of bullying or intimidation by hospital managers and senior doctors.
The move by shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham comes as new figures show nurses are now under so much pressure two in five are suffering stress.
The NHS staff survey revealed that 41% of hospital nurses and midwives are overwhelmed by their workload – a 27% increase since 2010.
And half said the ward they work on is now dangerously understaffed.
NHS champions will help to cut work-related stress and absence through sickness.
They will also tackle aggressive behaviour by the public which affects a third of NHS workers.
And police will get powers to issue on-the-spot fines for physical or verbal abuse of NHS staff by patients or their relatives.
Mr Burnham told the Sunday People in an exclusive interview: “We don’t care enough for the people who care for us.
“I’m going to have a big job rebuilding the morale of a shattered workforce. They’ve been ground down over the last five years.”
He will recruit 20,000 more nurses to ease the pressure paid for by a Mansion Tax on homes worth more than £2million.
Although the champions will work within the NHS they will have the same independence as the Chief Medical Officer does now.
One in seven medical staff report they have been victims of violence in the previous 12 months.
The NHS loses £1.6billion a year through sickness and it costs even more to pay agency workers up to £1,000 a weekend to replace them.
Mr Burnham added: “Hospital workers say they feel like they’re in a tunnel with no light at the end.
“They feel under the cosh, demoralised and exhausted. My first priority will be to give them a lift.”
Eight in ten NHS staff believe their own wellbeing is key to patient care. Yet they feel neglected by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
And hospitals with high rates of patient deaths also record more sickness absence.
Labour will also hire 8,000 more GPs to ease pressure on local surgeries.
Six in ten family doctors say it is now so bad they are thinking of taking early retirement.