Jeremy Hunt was Health Secretary from 2012-2018, and is MP for Surrey South West.

Today, I am hoping to persuade the Government to change the new Health Bill to deal with the workforce crisis in the NHS.

As Health Secretary, I came to realise that extra money for the NHS and care system will never have the intended results unless there are enough trained staff to do the work needed.

Since it takes seven years to train a doctor and three years to train a nurse, this problem cannot be solved overnight: you need long term planning, which is all too often absent from our system.

My amendment to the Bill does not require the Government to spend a penny of extra money – but simply to publish regular, independent estimates of the number of doctors and nurse that we should be training in every specialty.

To date, the Government has resisted, on the basis it is ‘not necessary’. The facts tell a different story: the Royal Colleges say that we need 500 more obsetetricians, 1400 more anaesthetists, 1900 more radiologists, 2000 more midwives, 2-2,500 A & E consultants, 2, 500 more GPs and 39,000 nurses – and that we need them right now.

Overall, we have 93,000 vacancies in the NHS. Our brilliant frontline staff are starting to leave their jobs because of what is called ‘burnout’ – and the more that happens, the worse the problem gets for the people left behind. The pressure, particularly in emergency care and general practice, is now unsustainable.

Some will quite reasonably ask whether I could not have done more on the issue when I was Health Secretary. The answer that is I did – setting up five new medical schools and increasing the number of doctors, nurses and midwives we train by 25 per cent, the biggest single uplift ever.

But that decision, announced in 2016, has not yet led to a single additional doctor on the frontline because of the seven year timescale involved. That is why we need a better approach.

Inevitably in spending negotiations between the Health Secretary and the Chancellor, the number of doctors we will have in a decade’s time is less of a priority than immediate challenges such as the pandemic backlog. Exactly that happened this autumn when, even after the Budget, the settlement for Health Education England, which funds training, has not been settled.

So we need a new discipline in the system to make sure that we are always training enough doctors and nurses for the future. In the past, immigration was a ‘get out of jail’ card on this one but no longer: the World Health Organisation says there is a global shortage of two million doctors and 15 million nurses. We are not the only country with a backlog.

Some in Government are worried that it will cost more if the new body recommends a big increase in the number of doctors we train. The truth is the opposite: we spend about the same as France as a proportion of GDP on health as France and Germany, but with many fewer doctors per head – because we pay through the nose for locums. Every extra doctor we train will help bring down our annual £6 billion pound bill for locum and agency staff.

I have pressed the case in Parliament with the Prime Minister on three occasions now, including at last week’s Liaison Committee when he promised to consider it. The change has been recommended by 50 NHS organisations including every Royal College and even the BMA who were not, let’s be honest, my greatest supporters when I was Health Secretary. It has been recommended in countless select committee reports.

I have total confidence that this change will be made because it is the right thing to do, but every month or year we wait is an additional period of despair for NHS staff. We cannot solve the workforce crisis in the NHS overnight – but we can at least give hope that a long term solution is in place. Surely after the two years we have just had, that is the very least we can do.