latest health care news

07.11.17

Reduction in overseas staff would have ‘serious and damaging impact’

A reduction in international staff will threaten the quality of care patients receive, a report by NHS Providers has warned.

The report, ‘There for us: a better future for the NHS workforce,’ calls for urgent steps to ease the “intolerable pressures” faced by frontline staff, and claims that any significant reduction in the number of overseas staff in the coming years would have  a “serious and damaging impact on services for the public.”

Highlighted in the report are the findings of a survey of chairs and chief executives in NHS organisations, in which two thirds of respondents identified workforce concerns as their most pressing challenge in delivering high quality care, and 85% felt that it was important to recruit from outside of the EU.

The main barrier to international recruitment was considered to be Brexit. The report also identifies the detrimental effect of workforce challenges on morale, with more and more staff choosing to leave the NHS.

The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said: “The staff and skills shortages we now see reflect a fundamental failure at national level on workforce strategy.

“We don’t have enough staff with the right skills and we’re asking far too much of our existing staff.

“NHS trust leaders are telling us there are no quick fixes to improve the supply of UK-trained staff, and the outlook for international recruitment is uncertain.”

He continued: “The government must deliver certainty for EU staff. It should reassure them that their commitment to the NHS is greatly valued and will continue to be welcome. 

It should also provide assurance on immigration policy so trusts can continue to recruit overseas while we strengthen our workforce here.

“We need a coordinated workforce strategy with clear goals in sight that match the realities of demographic pressures and new approaches to care.

“A better future for the NHS workforce is within our grasp, but we need a commitment from government and national bodies, first to recognise the gravity and urgency of the challenges we face, and then to act.”

Danny Mortimer, NHS Employers chief executive, said that the report confirms their concerns about staff retention.

However, he said that employers are: “not interested in further analysis and lengthy diagnosis of their workforce issues.

“They welcome the recent national commitments on nurse training and affordable housing for NHS workers,” he said.

“They are clear that now is the time for these and other promises of national support to be made concrete, particularly in relation to international recruitment and properly funding the training of existing staff (known as continuing professional development - CPD), as well as complete funding for an end to the pay cap.”

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said that ministers must not dismiss these warnings.

She said: “When the NHS has never been busier, it is haemorrhaging experienced nurses at a faster rate than it can find new recruits.

“For as long as we fail to train enough British nurses, we must be able to recruit the best from around Europe. If there is a ‘cliff edge’ in 2019, it will be the NHS going over it.

She continued: “Theresa May must send out the message that EU professionals working here are desperately needed. There are already 40,000 unfilled nurse jobs in England alone and the number entering training is falling.

“The nursing profession has seen years of poor decisions and excessive cost-cutting - we need investment in nurse education and a new law that makes ministers and others accountable for proper workforce planning and mandated safe staffing levels.”

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Top image: Peter Byrne PA Wire

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