News

Nurse burnout now an emergency and only staffing overhaul can resolve it

Exhausted NHS staff need to feel confident better workforce planning is on its way, MPs say
nurse looks exhausted as MPs call for better workforce planning to address nurse burnout

NHS workforce planning has been dictated by cost rather than need – now nurses and other healthcare staff need to know long-term solutions to low staffing levels are on their way, say MPs

Burnout among nurses and other healthcare staff is now an emergency and can only be combatted by overhauling NHS workforce planning, say MPs.

The House of Commons health and social care committee said staffing strategy has been dictated by cost rather than not need, and called for immediate action to support staff exhausted by the pandemic, with a plan to cover staffing needs for the next two decades.

NHS workforce planning has been dictated by cost rather than need – now nurses and other healthcare staff need to know long-term solutions to low staffing levels are on their way, say MPs

nurse wearing face mask looks exhausted as MPs call for action over workforce planning
Picture: iStock

Burnout among nurses and other healthcare staff is now an emergency and can only be combatted by overhauling NHS workforce planning, say MPs.

The House of Commons health and social care committee said staffing strategy has been dictated by cost rather than not need, and called for immediate action to support staff exhausted by the pandemic, with a plan to cover staffing needs for the next two decades.

The RCN told the committee there were 50,000 nursing vacancies in the UK before the pandemic. And even though NHS Digital statistics show nurse and health visitor numbers in England rose by almost 11,000 last year, vacancies remain stubbornly high, at 36,214, according to latest data.

‘The least we can do for staff is show there is long-term solution’

In a report, the MPs, chaired by England’s former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘The emergency that workforce burnout has become will not be solved without a total overhaul of the way the NHS does workforce planning.

‘After the pandemic, the least we can do for staff is to show there is a long-term solution to those shortages, ultimately the biggest driver of burnout.’

The committee said that, while issues such as excessive workload cannot be solved overnight, staff should feel confident that a long-term solution is in place.

‘It is clear workforce planning has been led by the funding available to health and social care rather than by the capacity required to service demand,’ the report said.

Significant numbers report wanting to quit nursing

An RCN survey in May 2020 found 15,047 college members (36% of respondents) were considering leaving the profession, citing low staffing levels, poor pay and a lack of management support among the main reasons.

RCN acting general secretary Pat Cullen called for population-based workforce assessments and safe staffing levels to be a legal duty for the health and social secretary.

'The unprecendented demand on nursing staff during the pandemic has had a huge impact on their own well-being.

'But, as this report shows, the cracks in the system designed to look after nursing staff appeared years ago.'

The MPs want Health Education England to publish independently-audited annual reports on workforce needs for health and social care for the next five to 20 years.

HEE has been contacted for comment.

FREE: Nursing Standard’s free well-being centre


In other news

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first three months:

  • Customisable clinical dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals including Nursing Children and Young People
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • NMC-compliant RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs