Around 17,000 nurses will be needed to tackle the NHS backlog amid coronavirus, a former health secretary has said.

Jeremy Hunt, a member of the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme how a new report will look at the pandemic's impact on the NHS.

Mr Hunt said the report will look “at the bigger problem we were facing before Omicron” and the staffing crisis.

Forecasts predict the need for a huge recruitment drive with 4,000 extra doctors required to clear the NHS backlog, according to Mr Hunt.

It comes just months after one health chief said it is likely some people will be asked to go to neighbouring hospitals for treatment.

Reading Chronicle: The Government has been under mounting pressure to tackle the NHS treatment backlog, worsened by Covid-19. Photo via PA.The Government has been under mounting pressure to tackle the NHS treatment backlog, worsened by Covid-19. Photo via PA.

Mr Hunt told the BBC: “The one thing people are not talking about is a shortage of funding. What they’re talking about is not being able to find the staff to do the work. And that’s why we say in this report the biggest gap at the moment in the Government’s plans to deal with this huge six million waiting list is a lack of doctors and nurses and a lack of a plan to find those doctors and nurses.

“You need about 4,000 more doctors, 17,000 more nurses to deal with this backlog, and what we have argued is that you need to have independent forecasts to make sure that we are training enough doctors and nurses.

“But the trouble is that the number of doctors and nurses training, it takes seven years to train a doctor, 10 years actually to train a GP, and so it’s always low in the priorities for health sectors.”

'Short-term Government measures may be needed'

Jeremy Hunt said short-term measures are also needed to tackle the backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

He told the Today programme: “We need to go a lot further. We’ve got six million people on the waiting list, we’ve got a crisis in our A&E department, record number of 999 calls, double the referrals to children and young people’s mental health in some areas.

“If we’re going to tackle all of that we need a lot of short-term measures as well, and what we don’t have is a workforce plan that says how we are going to get these 4,000 doctors, and unless we do that, we’re going to find this incredible frustration from taxpayers’ point of view, that they’re putting the money in, but they’re not getting the results out that they were promised.”