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Commons committee lacks faith in government workforce planning

DHSC does not know how many nurses are needed or where or in what specialisms, MPs say in damning report
Picture shows a group of abstract figures representing nurses against a background of a falling graph

DHSC does not know how many nurses are needed or where or in what specialisms, MPs say in damning report

The government does not understand how many nurses are needed in the NHS, where they are needed or in what specialisms, says a damming assessment by a committee of MPs of nursing workforce planning.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said in a report there are worrying signs that the NHS in England has reverted from long-term planning to short-term firefighting.

The report, NHS Nursing Workforce , said nurses played a vital role during the COVID-19 outbreak, but this effort took place against a backdrop of nearly 40,000 vacancies.

We are facing an emerging crisis in nursing

In a press release on the report, committee chair Meg Hillier said:

DHSC does not know how many nurses are needed or where or in what specialisms, MPs say in damning report

Picture shows a group of abstract figures representing nurses against a background of a falling graph
Picture: iStock

The government does not understand how many nurses are needed in the NHS, where they are needed or in what specialisms, says a damming assessment by a committee of MPs of nursing workforce planning.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said in a report there are worrying signs that the NHS in England ‘has reverted from long-term planning to short-term firefighting.’

The report, NHS Nursing Workforce, said nurses played a vital role during the COVID-19 outbreak, but this effort took place against a backdrop of nearly 40,000 vacancies.

‘We are facing an emerging crisis in nursing’

In a press release on the report, committee chair Meg Hillier said: ‘I fear that with the strain of a huge shortage of nurses and the worrying reports of low morale and huge numbers considering leaving in the next year, we are facing an emerging crisis in nursing.’

The cross-party group of MPs said the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) could not show that its commitment to 50,000 more nurses by 2025 matched the actual need for nurses in the NHS, including varied demands in specialisms and regions.

The MPs said they are unconvinced that DHSC has plans on how to secure 50,000 more nurses. They also said the removal of the NHS bursary for nursing students in 2017 has ‘signally failed’ to achieve DHSC’s ambition of increasing student numbers.

‘This reflects what our members have been highlighting for years’

Responding to the report, RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said nurses had long warned government of the workforce issues facing the profession, and the government must act on pay and financial support for students to address the problem.

‘The findings of this report reflect what our members have been highlighting for years – a lack of planning and funding for the workforce is causing major issues, exacerbated by the pandemic,’ she said.

‘Government must now aim for “oversupply” after years of under-investment if they hope to meet demand.’

A DHSC spokesperson said the government’s workforce plan is sound. ‘We are on our way to delivering 50,000 more nurses by the end of this parliament, with already over 13,800 more working in the NHS and a 22% rise in nursing university acceptances this year.’


Find out more

House of Commons Public Accounts Committee NHS nursing workforce report

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