Workforce challenges in the NHS in England now pose a greater threat to health services than funding challenges, according to a new report from the King’s Fund.
According to the report, published in conjunction with the Health Foundation and Nuffield Trust, there is currently a shortage of more than 100,000 staff across NHS trusts. Based on current trends, the report states that the gap between staff needed and the number available could reach almost 250,000 by 2030. If the emerging trend of staff leaving the workforce early continues and the pipeline of newly trained staff and international recruits does not rise sufficiently, this number could be more than 350,000 by 2030, it warns.
The current shortages are attributed to a number of factors, including the fragmentation of responsibility for workforce issues at a national level, restrictive immigration policies exacerbated by Brexit, and worryingly high numbers of doctors and nurses leaving the NHS early.
NHS leaders will shortly publish a long-term plan setting out their ambitions for the health service in the context of the recent funding settlement. The report states that this plan “must be clearly linked to a strategy to address the workforce crisis, otherwise it will simply be a wish list rather than a credible path to a sustainable future for the health service”.
The King’s Fund is expected to publish a further report in the coming weeks addressing five key levers that could help ameliorate the workforce crisis affecting health and social care.