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Nurse vacancies: publishing workforce projections ‘doesn’t go far enough’

RCN says government must ‘accept full accountability’ for resolving staffing crisis, as House of Lords votes to request more regular workforce data

RCN says government must ‘accept full accountability’ for resolving staffing crisis, as House of Lords votes to request more regular workforce data

A move to require the government to publish health and social care workforce data in a bid to tackle staff shortages ‘doesn’t go far enough’, according to the RCN.

The comment follows a House of Lords debate on the Health and Care Bill yesterday in which peers voted 171 to 119 in favour of a cross-party amendment to the bill, which would require the government to publish workforce projections every two years, including independent assessments of current and future staffing needs.

Government must accept

RCN says government must ‘accept full accountability’ for resolving staffing crisis, as House of Lords votes to request more regular workforce data

Baroness Cumberlege was one of the speakers during House of Lords debate on Health and Care Bill. Picture: Parliamentlive.tv

A move to require the government to publish health and social care workforce data in a bid to tackle staff shortages ‘doesn’t go far enough’, according to the RCN.

The comment follows a House of Lords debate on the Health and Care Bill yesterday in which peers voted 171 to 119 in favour of a cross-party amendment to the bill, which would require the government to publish workforce projections every two years, including independent assessments of current and future staffing needs.

Government must accept full accountability for reducing nurse vacancies

But RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘The secretary of state must do more than be transparent about the issues but also accept full accountability for resolving the vacancy crisis within the nursing workforce.

‘An acceptance of accountability will go some way towards demonstrating to the nursing profession that the secretary of state hears their concerns and is willing to take responsibility for action.’

Nearly 40,000 vacant nursing posts in England

The House of Lords debate on the bill came amid warnings of a staffing crisis, with the latest NHS England vacancy statistics published on 3 March revealing 39,652 unfilled nursing posts.

In earlier stages of the bill, former NHS chief executive Lord Stevens accused the government of ‘wilful blindness’ in failing to ensure there were enough staff to meet demand. The number of people waiting for hospital treatment is at an all-time high of six million.

Nurses have criticised the government for a lack of nurse workforce planning, which many claim has left the health service ill-equipped to recover from the pandemic.

Failure to plan for adequate workforce levels is 'a false economy'

The King’s Fund chief executive Richard Murray said yesterday’s amendment to the bill will help provide ‘robust’ workforce planning.

‘Poor planning, weak policy and fragmented responsibilities for the health and care workforce mean that staff shortages have become endemic, leaving staff exhausted, services struggling to cope and people wating longer for the care they need, even before the pandemic,’ he said.

‘In truth, the failure to plan is a false economy as services resort to expensive agency staff and paying overtime to fill rota gaps.’

Unison head of health Sara Gorton said it is a crucial step in recognising the importance of monitoring workforce data, but warned future workforce planning will be made difficult ‘if the number leaving the NHS outstrips the number of new recruits’.

‘The key action now is to persuade more people to stay with an urgent retention package and an above inflation pay rise. That way, staff won’t leave for better paid work outside the health service,’ she added.

Government has tasked NHS England to create long-term workforce strategy

The bill will now return to the House of Commons, where the government has a majority and could overturn the amendment.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the NHS now has 11,700 more nurses compared with last year.

‘We are investing hundreds of millions in growing the workforce. We recently commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term workforce strategy, and will set out the key conclusions of that work in due course,’ they added.


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