Health Secretary Steve Barclay has refused to give a deadline for the release of the long-awaited NHS workforce plan.
Health bodies have said it is “incredibly disappointing” that new long-term proposals, which many were expecting to feature in the Chancellor’s spring Budget, have not yet been announced.
On Sunday, Mr Barclay promised the plan, which Jeremy Hunt renewed a Government commitment to in his autumn statement last year, will be published before the next election.
He blamed the pandemic and “various things that have been happening in recent years” for the delay.
“It is a big complex set of proposals, it’s right that we take our time to get the detail of that right. We will bring that out soon,” Mr Barclay told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday.
“We’ve said that we will do that shortly.”
Mr Barclay refused to “announce a specific date”, but said he has been “very clear the plan will come out very shortly”.
Opposition MPs accused him of “broken promises”, with deputy Liberal Democrat leader Daisy Cooper saying: “From fixing crumbling hospitals to reforming social care, it is all delay, delay, delay.
“If we don’t see a plan for social care reform brought forward before the next general election, it will be a hammer blow for our health services.”
Conservative backbenchers have also aired concerns, accusing the Government of lacking a long-term vision for the health service.
Former minister Sir Edward Leigh told the Commons in January: “What is our long-term plan? We can’t leave the Labour Party to have a long-term plan and we don’t.”
Dr Charmaine Griffiths, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, branded the absence of the plan from the spring Budget a “missed opportunity”.
She added: “The upcoming Government workforce plan will need major new investment to be a success.”
The NHS workforce plan for England aims to address the chronic staff shortages and show a path towards fixing the country’s healthcare problems.
It was expected to include verified forecasts for the number of doctors, nurses and other professionals needed to maintain the workforce over the next five to 15 years.