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Royal College of Nursing remains sceptical of NHS long term workforce plan

There remains serious doubt around whether the government’s recently published NHS long term workforce plan can be properly delivered, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The headline pledge for nurses in the plan was an ambition to recruit 170,000 more staff by 2036/37, which also came alongside a range of other proposals, including increasing the number of nursing degree students by over a third in the next five years and expanding nursing associate training places by 40% over a similar timeframe.

A distinct lack of detail and failure to acknowledge the level of investment needed to make the plan’s ambitions a reality were cited as reasons behind the royal college’s scepticism.

“You can’t recruit your way out of a retention crisis.”

That’s what the RCN’s general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, said on the plan at the time of its publication.

The RCN said it wants more information on how staff numbers will be increased, the specific actions that will contribute to recruitment, retention and reform goals, and how the outlined £2.4bn of funding will be deployed.

The organisation also warned that, while the plan was drafted with an optimistic view on the future of social care, access to services are unlikely to improve without the requisite funding and intervention from central government.

In the short term, the royal college urges the government to address how workforce shortages in the sector are exacerbating working conditions and burnout, plus capturing data on safe staffing levels.

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