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Clinical staff supply is badly managed – NAO

The supply of clinical staff in the NHS is being managed ineffectively, a new National Audit Office (NAO) report says.

According to the report, released today, current arrangements by the Department of Health and various arm’s-length bodies and healthcare commissioners and providers for managing the supply of clinical staff are fragmented and do not represent value for money.

The quality of the available data on vacancies is poor but, in 2014, there was a reported overall staffing shortfall of around 5.9%.

NAO head Amyas Morse said: “Given the size of the NHS, workforce planning will never be an exact science, but we think it clearly could be better than it is. Equally, the way in which staff shortfalls are filled can be, and often is, unnecessarily costly and inefficient. Since clinical staff are the NHS’s main resource and cost, these shortcomings are serious and the current arrangements do not achieve value for money.”  

The report said trusts spent too much on temporary staff, with £3.3bn being spent in 2014-15, compared to £2.2bn in 2009-10.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Staffing is a priority — that's why there are already over 29,600 extra clinical staff, including more than 10,600 additional doctors and more than 10,600 additional nurses on our wards since May 2010, as well as over 50,000 nurses currently in training.

"However, we know that much more needs to be done to make sure we continue to have the right number of staff in training and on our wards so patients receive high quality care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That's why we are changing student nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals funding to create up to 10,000 more training places by the end of this Parliament.”

10.30am February 8 UPDATE

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer said: “Today’s NAO report is a helpful analysis of the challenges that employers across the country are facing. Attracting and retaining the best staff is important for the NHS, and we need to get it right to build a sustainable workforce.”

Mortimer added that he agreed with the report that the NHS needs to move away from a reliance on agency staff, and that NHS Employers are lobbying to place nursing permanently on the shortage occupation list so the NHS can recruit more nurses from within and without the EU and ensure safe staffing levels.

Nurses were added to the list in October as an interim measure.

Health Foundation director of policy Richard Taunt said: “We agree with the NAO that a more coordinated approach to managing the supply of staff is essential. However, thinking needs to be coordinated across all of NHS workforce policy, including staff planning, but also regulation, education and training, pay, and how staff are motivated and led.”





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