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England ‘faces shortfall of 42,000 nurses by 2020’

England could be hit by a shortfall of 42,000 nurses by 2020 and almost half of all nurses are worried about stretched staffing levels, a new report says.

England could be hit by a shortfall of 42,000 nurses by 2020 and almost half of all nurses are worried that stretched staffing levels mean they may not be able to do their jobs properly, according to a new report.


The new report warns of a shortfall of nurses Picture: iStock

The findings are from a report by the Health Foundation, which looked at the 2016 NHS staff survey along with nurse staffing levels and NHS pay policy.

The 42,000 shortfall amounts to 12% of the workforce.

A worsening problem

The report, called In Short Supply, also points to falls in NHS staff pay as a worsening problem.

It states: ‘By 2020, NHS staff will have had a decade of falling real pay and little – if any – scope for reform to allow the pay system to respond to wider labour market changes. The national living wage will also have impacted on pay differentials between staff.

‘Moreover, while pay structures and levels have been “frozen”, other aspects of NHS staff reward packages have been subject to significant reform – most notably pensions and bursaries for training.’

Fall in pay

It notes that pay for NHS staff on pay bands 5 and above, which amounts to 625,000 people and includes all nurses, is expected to drop by 12% between 2010-2011 and 2020-2021, after accounting for inflation. Without a change in pay policy the situation will get worse, the report says.

There is also a serious lack of coordinated workforce planning, according to the report, and the impact of Brexit on international recruitment may also add to the frustrations.

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, described poor workforce planning as one of the key risks facing the NHS.

She said: ‘We are still not training enough nurses, doing too little to stop nurses leaving, and there seems to be no plan for pay policy following almost a decade of pay restraint. On top of this, the impact of Brexit means that international recruitment – the health service’s usual get out of jail free card for staff shortages – is at risk.

Safe staffing

‘Half of nurses don’t feel staffing levels are safe. The stress this places on nurses is causing many to leave the health service, making it even harder to provide safe staffing levels and driving a vicious cycle which can’t be escaped with more quick fixes or short-term solutions.

‘Whatever the outcome of the election, the new government will have to finally get a grip of workforce planning in the health service.’

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: ‘We disagree with these figures – they speculate on future pay awards, which are based on independent recommendations.

‘In any case, the key point as we approach a vital election is that investment in our NHS, in additional staff and indeed in their overall pay, is founded on the strong economy that only Theresa May and the Conservatives can provide.’


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