Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is facing the "greatest workforce crisis" in its history, according to a parliamentary committee report published on Monday.
The report by the Health of Social Care Select Committee also criticized the "absence of a credible government strategy" to deal with the crisis, saying that there are critical labor shortages in almost every sector.
Jeremy Hunt, an MP with the governing Conservative Party, and former health secretary chairs the select committee.
Hunt said: “We now face the greatest workforce crisis in history in the NHS and social care, with still no idea of the number of additional doctors, nurses, and other professionals we actually need.”
He added that exhausted NHS staff were still recovering from the pandemic and that the government "should at least be giving them comfort that a plan is in place."
"This must be a priority for the new prime minister," he added, in a reference to the ongoing Conservative Party leadership contest to find Prime Minister Boris Johnson's replacement.
The committee's report pointed out that the staffing crisis is actually worse than official figures indicate.
The report said: “The persistent understaffing of the NHS now poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety, both for routine and emergency care."
“While shortages in any area pose patient safety risks, these are particularly pressing in maternity services,” it added.
The government conceded last year that the NHS in England needed 2,000 more midwives and 500 more obstetricians, but despite this, the report said the NHS in England in fact "lost 552 midwives between March 2021 and March 2022."
The report added that a date has not been set yet by Health Secretary Sajid Javid when this gap in the NHS workforce would be filled.
One solution the committee proposed was to reform doctors' pensions, an issue that is leading to some doctors working less or leaving the workforce altogether.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We hugely value and appreciate the dedication and contribution of NHS and social care staff. We are growing the health and social care workforce, with over 4,000 more doctors, 9,600 more nurses compared to last year, and over 1,400 more doctors in general practice compared to March 2019.
“As we continue to deliver on our commitment to recruit 50,000 more nurses by 2024, we are also running a £95 million ($114.5 million) recruitment drive for maternity services and providing £500 million ($603 million) to develop our valued social care workforce, including through training opportunities and new career pathways.
“We have commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term workforce plan to recruit and support NHS staff while they deliver high-quality, safe care to patients and help to bust the COVID-19 backlogs.”