A government-backed scheme to allow unpaid job seekers to perform duties for a hospital trust could be seen as “staffing on the cheap”, a Labour MP has claimed.
Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne argued the initiative was “no substitute” for the “necessary number” of nurses and healthcare assistants in the health service.
Health minister Simon Burns maintained the hospital work experience scheme was something to be welcomed, not “snidely denigrated”.
Speaking during Commons health questions, Mr Gwynne said: “At a time when almost 4,000 nursing posts have been axed, the Sandwell and West Birmingham (Hospitals) NHS Trust are using unpaid job seekers through his government’s Work Programme to perform duties such as collecting drugs and giving food and drinks to patients.
“Doesn’t he understand that whatever the good intentions of the scheme, most people will see this as staffing on the cheap and that there can be no substitute for the necessary number of nurses and healthcare assistants in our NHS?”
Mr Burns replied: “First he is incorrect in the number of nurses that he says have left the NHS, because the figure is nowhere near 4,000 as he mentioned, 2,693.
“Secondly he denigrates a scheme where people have the opportunity through the Job Centres to get a familiarity with the workings of the NHS, so that they can then take a view as to whether they want to invest their future talents in a career in the NHS.
“I would have thought frankly that was something to be welcomed rather than to be snidely denigrated.”