Staff burnout could derail NHS efficiency drive and hopes for a seven-day service, says think tank

Nuffield Trust think tank outlines the health and social care issues it wants to see given priority in this parliament

Plans to make £22 billion in savings, and for a seven-day NHS by 2020 will not be realised unless the health service reconnects with staff and develops their skills, warns a leading think tank.

The Nuffield Trust published a briefing today as MPs prepared to debate health policy contained in the Queen’s Speech. The think tank highlights the growing trend of hospitals relying on agency staff, problems recruiting and retaining GPs and a rise in staff sickness leave caused by stress.

Nuffield says these factors, together with the continued effects of holding down pay, suggest disengagement and burnout could hamper progress at a time of immense pressure on the NHS.

Nuffield Trust chief executive Nigel Edwards said: ‘The NHS needs to hit very ambitious efficiency targets, at the same time as fundamentally changing the way care is delivered and moving to a seven-day service. That can only be done if it has the right staff in the right places. Yet there are not enough staff to fill gaps in key areas, and we are seeing clear signs of stress and disengagement.’

He said the NHS has already been ‘thrown off course’ by high spending on agency staffing.

‘Solving these problems doesn’t just mean pledging more doctors and nurses,’ he said. ‘We need to use those we have more intelligently, so they’re more ready to deal with the growing number of older people with complicated health issues.’

The briefing document outlines ten priorities for the government on health and social care, including the  transformation of care outside hospital and immediate action to stabilise the funding crisis facing the NHS.

Click here to read more on the Nuffield Trust's healthcare priorities. 

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