NHS workforce on the ‘edge of safety’

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NHS England’s staff are working on the brink of safety, as growing patient numbers outweigh staff employment rates.

In the ‘Better Future for the NHS Workforce’ report by NHS Providers, staff shortages were classified as the primary concern within the NHS.

The pressure on health services and workers were also attributed to growing demand for healthcare services, poor staff retention rates and insufficient funding. In order to close the workforce gap, the report identified several key actions to undertake, including:

  • retaining and recruiting EU and overseas staff
  • opening up opportunities for staff in the UK through an increase in healthcare training places
  • providing national-level support to aid the efficient delivery of health services
  • addressing the growing work pressure on staff and improving their experiences
  • effective communication of NHS workforce strategy, planning and policy within the government.
Sarah Gorton, Deputy Head of Health at Unison, commented: ‘The NHS finds itself at the heart of a vicious circle. As demands on the health service grow, and pay continues to dive as prices soar, staff are understandably attracted to jobs where the pressures are less extreme and the wages more competitive.’

A spokesperson for the Department of Health stated that the government hoped to secure the rights of EU staff in the NHS. They said: ‘The NHS has over 12,700 more doctors and 10,600 more nurses on wards since May 2010, but we know that we need more staff.

‘That’s why we recently announced the biggest ever expansion of training places for doctors and nurses, as well as being clear that the future of EU nationals is a top priority in the Brexit negotiations and we want their valued contribution to the NHS to continue, to ensure the NHS has the staff it needs both now and in the future.’

However, Saffron Cordery, Director of Policy and Strategy at NHS Providers, said the lack of a ‘coherent or credible’ strategy meant there was no guarantee this would be effective. She stressed that there were no ‘quick fixes’ for the workforce deficit faced by the NHS.