NHS workforce report highlights large shortfall in nurse numbers

NHS Improvement pledges to help providers tackle staff recruitment issues

A rapid rise in the demand for nurses since the publication of the Francis Report has led to a shortfall of 15,000 clinical staff, according to a study.

An analysis by NHS Improvement found the demand was a direct result of the findings of the inquiry into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, led by Robert Francis QC and published exactly three years ago.

Francis recommended that safe staffing guidance was developed, and this led to a push for higher nursing numbers.  

‘The step change in demand in the period after publication of the Francis report indicates that safe staffing has had a strong impact on acute hospitals’ demand for nursing staff,’ states the NHS Improvement document.

It adds that demand has driven up the cost of agency staff by 30%.

The fall in the number of nurses from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) joining the NHS has contributed to the nursing shortage. In the early 2000s, this figure hit a peak of 15,000 but by 2014-15 only 665 non-EEA nurses were registered with the NMC. 

Safe Staffing Alliance chair Susan Osborne said: ‘It is infuriating to see report after report proving we have a severe shortage of nurses with no government action taken to address this.’ 

She wants more training places to be commissioned so that every hospital has a nurse-to-patient ratio of at least 1:8. 

RCN director of nursing, policy and practice Donna Kinnair said the only way to tackle agency costs ‘is by training more full-time nurses so that supply can meet demand.’

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said recent government plans to axe nursing student bursaries would do nothing to reduce the 15,000 shortfall.

NHS Improvement, which will replace Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority as regulator in April, has laid out the steps it will take to tackle the shortage, including working with NHS England and Health Education England to improve workforce planning. 

It also suggests using the metric recently published in the Carter Review that combines nurse and healthcare assistant numbers to ‘help providers to benchmark their performance against each other’.

The NHS Improvement report states that the government’s plans to replace grants and bursaries with loans will remove the cap on student nurse numbers, helping to achieve a better balance between supply and demand. 

It concludes: ‘We recognise that workforce challenges cannot be resolved overnight because it takes time to train new nurses.’

To read the report, Evidence from NHS Improvement on clinical staff shortages, click here



This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.