latest health care news

02.05.17

NHS facing potential 42,000 nursing shortfall by 2020

The NHS could face a crisis in nursing by 2020, as there may be a shortfall of 42,000 people, around 12% of the profession, according to new research.

In a report released today by the Health Foundation called ‘In Short Supply’, figures in the 2016 NHS Staff Survey were analysed, unearthing fresh concern that staffing levels are insufficient to support nurses to do their job properly.

Pay was also found to be a problem that is likely to worsen in the future, as it was revealed that NHS staff with salaries on pay bands five and above, which includes nurses, will drop by 12% between 2010-11 and 2020-21 in real terms. This is a figure that the Health Foundation believes is set to worsen in the future.

This follows Jeremy Hunt announcing a real terms pay cut at the end of March, a policy that was described as a “bitter blow” to nurses by union the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

During the run up to the general election on 8 June, last week Labour pledged to axe the 1% pay cap for NHS staff in an effort to show the party’s support for health workers – something a number of unions immediately threw their support behind.

According to the Health Foundation’s latest study, a lack of co-ordinated workforce planning was found to be the “Achilles heel of the NHS”, especially in light of the impact Brexit will have on the workforce as the status of European NHS workers remains increasingly uncertain.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said: “Poor workforce planning is one of the key risks facing the NHS.

“We are still not training enough nurses, doing too little to stop nurses leaving, and there seems to be no plan for pay policy following almost a decade of pay restraint. On top of this, the impact of Brexit means that international recruitment – the health service’s usual get out of jail free card for staff shortages – is at risk.”

Charlesworth added that half of nurses didn’t feel that staffing levels were safe, stating that the stress this uncertainty places on nurses is causing many to leave the health service.

The Health Foundation director argued this is something that is making it even harder to provide safe staffing levels and drives a “vicious cycle” which can’t be avoided with short-term solutions.

“Whatever the outcome of the election, the new government will have to finally get a grip of workforce planning in the health service,” she concluded.

Previously, the RCN had warned the government that the union had been forced to pay out £250,000 worth of hardship grants to nurses last year to help staff pay essential expenses like bills.

CEO and secretary of the union Janet Davies said: “It is a sad indictment that a growing number of nursing staff require financial assistance, even those on full-time salaries, simply to cover everyday costs.

“Too many are struggling to make ends meet, with some taking on second jobs or even turning to foodbanks.”

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