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Gap between demand for care and nurse numbers puts future of the NHS at risk – report

Health Foundation calls for 'significant action' to train and retain nurses

Health Foundation calls for 'significant action' to train and retain nurses


Nurse staffing is not keeping pace with demand for care. Picture: iStock

Nursing numbers aren't keeping pace with a steep rise in demand for care in the NHS, a report found.

The Health Foundation healthcare charity examined data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that show growth in healthcare 'activity' in England such as inpatient, outpatient and day-case procedures increased by 23% between 2010-17.

In contrast, the number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) nurses working in hospital and community health services increased by just 1% in the same period.

Steep growth in care delivered

The RCN estimates there is a 40,000-strong shortage of nurses in England's health service.

The Health Foundation warned this disparity presents a threat to the future of the NHS.

Health Foundation senior economics analyst Ben Gershlick said: 'The figures show that the steep growth in the amount of care being delivered by the health service this decade has not been matched by an adequate increase in the number of nurses.


Ben Gershlick of the
Health Foundation.

'The inevitable result of this divergence is increased pressure and mounting nurse workloads.

‘In the short-term, we can expect to see this pressure on staff continue as our projections suggest the NHS won’t be able to close the gap between demand and supply for nurses by 2023-24.'

‘Shortfall could top 100,000’

Mr Gershlick added that without 'significant policy action' to train and keep more nurses in the NHS, vacancies could rise to more than 100,000 in the next decade.

The government is expected to publish its Workforce Implementation Plan shortly, which it claims will 'ensure the NHS has staff it needs for the future'.


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