NHS Staff Shortages Could Double Without 'Radical Action' - RightsInfo

NHS Staff Shortages Could Double Without ‘Radical Action’

The NHS in England could be short of 70,000 nurses and 7,000 GPs within five years unless urgent action is taken to address a growing staffing crisis, according to analysis by three leading health think tanks.

A report by The Nuffield Trust, Health Foundation and King’s Fund warns that existing nursing shortages could double and the shortfall of family doctors treble, without radical action.

The analysis says that urgent measures must be adopted in a new NHS workforce strategy to prevent the shortages from worsening, with a combination of international recruitment, student grants and innovation needed.

Can The NHS Be Saved From A Workforce Crisis? 

We love our NHS sign

Credit: Birmingham/Eastside

An estimated £900 million is needed in the next five years to alleviate the shortage and help bring the numbers of healthcare workers up.

The increase in the annual budget will help to train 5,000 more nurses a year, create incentives to keep nurses in the NHS, triple the number of people training as postgraduates and fund visas for workers coming from abroad.

The workforce is the make or break issue for the health service

Anita Charlesworth, the Director of Research and Economics at the Health Foundation

However, this will not close the gap entirely but rather just keep health services functioning.

Anita Charlesworth, the Director of Research and Economics at the Health Foundation, explained that “decisive” change needs to be made and that the government should seek investment to aid in cutting shortages if it isn’t going to invest into training. 

“It doesn’t have to be this way. Decisive policy change backed by targeted investment could eliminate nursing shortages over the next decade,” Charlesworth said.

“But if the NHS is to have access to the skilled health workers it needs, the government must stop seeing funding for the workforce as a cost to be minimised and prioritise investment in training more staff.”

What Happens If Nothing Changes? 

Female nurse attends to male patient

Credit: RaxPixel/Unsplash

If the recommendations aren’t implemented, then the NHS will be unable to meet long term goals such as better mental health care access.

Currently, you could wait up to 18 weeks to have a consultation with a mental health specialist.

The workforce is the make or break issue for the health service and unless staffing shortages are substantially reduced the recent NHS long term plan can only be a wish list,” Charlesworth explained. 

Unless staffing shortages are substantially reduced the recent NHS long term plan can only be a wish list

Anita Charlesworth, the Director of Research and Economics at the Health Foundation

As well as failing on mental health, the analysis also found that the number of GPs is in a critical state, and without change specialists in other areas, such as pharmacists and physiotherapists, will have to be recruited to keep general practices afloat.

“Patients are facing longer delays for NHS treatment as services struggle to recruit and retain enough staff.

“Without radical action to expand the NHS workforce, there is a very real risk that some of the extra funding pledged by the government will go unspent, waiting lists will continue to grow and important improvements to services like mental health and general practice will fail,” added Richard Murray, the Chief Executive of the King’s Fund.

What About Brexit?

Garry Knight/Flickr

Credit: Garry Knight/Flickr

Patients are facing longer delays for NHS treatment as services struggle to recruit and retain enough staff

Richard Murray, the Chief Executive of the King’s Fund

The impact that Brexit will have on migration will also need to be addressed, the authors explained, as international healthcare workers are vital to the survival of the NHS.

This means the healthcare service will need to make sure salaries are attractive and cover the costs of visas.

“The government’s post-Brexit migration proposals risk limiting this vital source of workers. The government should go back to the drawing board to devise a route for care workers to enter the UK and develop a more sustainable funding model for social care,” Murray said.

Main image credit: Jose Luis Pelaez, Inc./Blend Images/Corbis

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Meka Beresford

Freelance News Editor
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Ollie Cole

Freelance News Editor
Ollie is a freelance News Editor for RightsInfo and multimedia journalist. He specialises in broadcast, online, and photography, and has had work published in a number of regional and national outlets. View all posts by Ollie Cole.
NHS Staff Shortages Could Double Without ‘Radical Action’
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