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21.03.19

NHS staffing crisis to double without radical change in ‘vicious cycle of growing shortages and declining quality’

The NHS could have a shortfall of 70,000 nurses and 7,000 GPs within the next five years and the crisis is so now so severe it “cannot be filled,” according a new report from health think tanks.

The report found that the NHS has no chance of training enough GPs to solve the current staffing crisis but proposes a set of radical measures, warning that “urgent action is now required to avoid a vicious cycle of growing shortages and declining quality.”

The co-authors of ‘Closing the gap’ - the Nuffield Trust, the Health Foundation, and the King’s Fund -predict that in the next five years nursing shortages will double and a shortfall of GPs nearly treble.

Ahead of the NHS workforce implementation plan due to be published later this year, the report proposes several high-impact policy actions which it states will require an extra investment of £900m per year by 2023-24 in the budget of Health Education England.

A “radical expansion” of nurse training providing living grants of £5,200 a year, international recruitment, and tripling the number of people training as postgraduates are among the urgent measures proposed.

The report concludes that even with grants, the expansion of postgraduate training, bringing 5,000 more students each year onto nursing courses, and further action, the gap “cannot be entirely filled” by 2023-24.

It said in order to keep services functioning, 5,000 nurses a year must also be ethically recruited from abroad which means the government will need to make wide exceptions to new salary restrictions in the Immigrant White Paper and funded visa costs.

The current projections show that nursing shortages will likely double to 70,000 and GP shortages will nearly triple to 7,000 to 2023-24, which the authors warn will make the goals set out in the NHS Long-Term Plan impossible to achieve.

In the case of GPs, the report states that the staffing crisis is so severe it “cannot be filled at all.”

Richard Murray, the chief executive of the King’s Fund, said: “Patients are facing longer delays for NHS treatment as services struggle to recruit and retain enough staff.

“Without radical action to expand the NHS workforce, there is a very real risk that some of the extra funding pledged by the government will go unspent, waiting lists will continue to grow and important improvements to services like mental health and general practice will fail.”

The director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, Anita Charlesworth, stated it “doesn’t have to be this way.”

“Decisive policy change backed by targeted investment could eliminate nursing shortages over the next decade. The government must stop seeing funding for the workforce as a cost to be minimised and prioritise investment in training more staff.”

Image credit - sturti

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