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‘Chance of a lifetime to fix nurse shortage’: reforms don’t go far enough, says RCN

College wants workforce planning rules added to new health and care bill for NHS in England
Picture of hospital ward staffing board showing number of nurses planned for and how many are available.

College wants workforce planning rules added to new health and care bill for NHS in England

The new health and care bill introduced in parliament last week presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for the government to resolve the UK's nurse shortage, the RCN says.

Its acting general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: We went into this pandemic with almost 50,000 nursing vacancies in the UK and the true scale of the shortage is unknown. The government has a once in a lifetime chance to fix the problem and help a severely depleted workforce.

RCN wants recognition of its role in setting professional standards for nursing

In a

College wants workforce planning rules added to new health and care bill for NHS in England

Picture of hospital ward staffing board showing number of nurses planned for and how many are available.
Picture: Guzelian

The new health and care bill introduced in parliament last week presents a once in a lifetime opportunity for the government to resolve the UK's nurse shortage, the RCN says.

Its acting general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: ‘We went into this pandemic with almost 50,000 nursing vacancies in the UK – and the true scale of the shortage is unknown. The government has a once in a lifetime chance to fix the problem and help a severely depleted workforce.’

RCN wants recognition of its role in setting professional standards for nursing

In a briefing on nursing workforce shortages, the college says a catalogue of 21 warnings about staffing shortages given to the government since 2016 have been ignored, and calls for provisions on workforce planning to be added to the bill, which sets out plans to reform the NHS in England.

The reforms include establishing regional integrated health boards to join up services and powers to merge or abolish health profession regulators.

The RCN suggests changes to the bill, including having independent information published every five, ten and 20 years setting out the workforce needed to deliver health and social care services. It also wants senior nurses to be appointed to the boards of new regional health and social care organisations and royal colleges to take part in regulating the profession.

‘The RCN must be recognised for our role in setting standards as the professional nursing body in the UK,’ it says.

Health Education England to review long-term workforce trends

It also lists warnings from bodies including the National Audit Office, the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Commons Health and Social Care Committee about workforce shortages. The PAC said in September 2020 that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) could not demonstrate if its target of 50,000 more nurses by 2025 matched actual NHS needs.

Health Education England has announced that it has been commissioned by the government to review long-term strategic trends for the health and social care workforce.

The DHSC has been contacted for comment.


Find out more

RCN Briefing on Nursing Workforce Shortages: 21 Missed Warnings


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