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NHS England: UK on track for a shortfall of 42,000 nurses by 2020

schedule 28th September 2017 by Roger Moore in Virtual College Last updated on 24th April 2018

Blurry figures in hospital corridor

Recent analysis from the Health Foundation has revealed that NHS England is on track to face a shortfall of 42,000 nurses by 2020 unless staffing levels are improved.

By 2020, NHS England could face a shortfall of 42,000 nurses – the equivalent of 12 per cent of its total workforce, it has been reported.

According to the latest analysis of the NHS staff survey by think-tank the Health Foundation, nearly half of all nurses are worried that there aren't sufficient staffing levels to allow them to do their job properly.

The report also found that the wages of NHS workers on bands five and above (which represents 625,000 people and includes all nurses) is expected to drop by 12 per cent between 2010/11 and 2020/21, once inflation is accounted for.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, who was one of the authors of the report, commented: "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.”

She went on to say that the stress nurses have is largely because they feel staffing levels are unsafe and is causing many of them to leave the health service. This is then making it even more difficult to provide safe staffing levels, driving the NHS into a vicious cycle that is unable to be solved with quick fixes or short-term solutions.

Authors of the ‘In short supply’ report are warning that, without change to pay policy, the situation for NHS staff could very easily become much worse. It found that most NHS employees have had a pay cut since 2010/11 and the current public sector pay policy implies that workers will face further real-terms pay cuts in the coming years.

In addition to this, the authors said that the serious lack of coordinated workforce strategy is one of the ‘Achilles’ heels of the NHS’, warning that the impact of Brexit on international recruitment is expected to make the situation worse.

England is also lagging behind Scotland; while there has been an almost full suite of safe staffing tools for various healthcare settings in Scotland, England so far only endorses three.

Janet Davies, the Royal College of Nursing’s chief executive and general secretary, said: “Nurses should not have to fund the NHS deficit from their own pay packets.

“Every year that the government holds NHS pay below inflation, hundreds of thousands of nurses get another real-terms cut to their salary. Too many are struggling to make ends meet, turning to food banks and hardship grants in desperation."

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Roger Moore - Virtual College

Author: Roger Moore

Roger graduated in economics from Warwick University and first had a career in teaching, progressing to head of business studies in a large comprehensive school. His long and varied marketing career included working for the world’s largest PR agency. He enjoys reading, swimming, country walking and watching and participating in racquet sports.

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