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07.11.18

NHS nursing vacancies could top 51,000 by the end of Brexit transitional period

The NHS could be short by 51,000 nurses, enough to staff 45 hospitals, by the end of the Brexit transition period, according to a new report from a coalition of 36 health and social care organisations.

The ‘Brexit and the Health and Social Care Workforce in the UK’ report, commissioned by the Cavendish Coalition, forecasts an additional shortfall of 5,000 to 10,000 nurses in the NHS by 2021.

This is on top of the current number of nursing vacancies which, at the end of June 2018, sat at 41,000 – 11.8% of all positions.

Danny Mortimer, co-convenor of the coalition and chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “These startling figures should be taken extremely seriously by those negotiating our departure from the EU.

“The health and social care sector is deeply reliant on talented colleagues from across Europe and the rest of the world so it is deeply disheartening to see these projected workforce gaps at a time of rising demand for services.

“We know we need to do more ourselves to strengthen staff retention and reduce turnover, but we are also reliant on decision-makers to ensure the UK remains an attractive prospect for our valued and talented colleagues from the EU and rest of the world.”

 The authors, from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), also explored the “increasingly crucial role” that EEA nationals play within the NHS, and warned that waiting times for patients increased in trusts which are losing more European workers.

The number of EEA nationals employed in social care increased by 68% between 2011 and 2016, it is estimated that almost a third of registered nurses left their role within the last 12 months.

This leaves the NHS with a vacancy rate of 12.3%, or 5,000 staff vacancies, at any given time.

The Cavendish Coalition has warned that the future immigration system must enable the health and social care system to continue attracting the brightest talent from the EU if the NHS is to be appropriately staffed after Brexit.

Cllr Kevin Bentley, chairman of the LGA’s Brexit Taskforce, said: “This is a positive report that reinforces a number of concerns that the LGA has recently raised.

“From the cradle to the grave, social care will touch all of our lives in some way so its sustainability is critical.

“Eight per cent of social care staff are non-UK EU nationals and therefore represents one of the sectors most vulnerable to changes in migration rules.”

Both the LGA and the Cavendish Coalition urged the government to improve pay and conditions for social care staff in its forthcoming spending review and in its Green Paper on social care.

Image credit - Sturti

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