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NHS needs 70,000 more nurses by 2024 to clear COVID backlog

Health Foundation says government pledge to find 50,000 nurses falls short of numbers needed

Health Foundation says government pledge to find 50,000 nurses by the end of 2024 falls way short of numbers needed

The NHS in England needs nearly 70,000 more nurses by 2024 if it is to recover from the challenges imposed by the pandemic, according to a new report.

Health and Social Care Funding to 2024/25 by health charity the Health Foundation

Health Foundation says government pledge to find 50,000 nurses by the end of 2024 falls way short of numbers needed

Health Foundation report suggests 69,600 extra nurses will be required if the NHS is to clear the backlog of patients
Picture: iStock

The NHS in England needs nearly 70,000 more nurses by 2024 if it is to recover from the challenges imposed by the pandemic, according to a new report.

Health and Social Care Funding to 2024/25 by health charity the Health Foundation suggests 69,600 extra nurses will be required if the NHS is to clear the backlog of patients and reduce waiting times by 2024-5.

Extra nursing input will be needed to tackle backlog of cases

The findings indicate that the government’s pledge to find 50,000 additional nurses by the end of 2024 will fall way short of the numbers needed.

The figures are based on a calculation of the extra nursing input that will be needed to tackle a backlog of cases and meet a projected rise in demand, including a substantial increase in mental health referrals.

The researchers predict at least 370,500 full-time equivalent nurses will be needed in England in 2024-25 – up from 300,900 in 2018-19. This represents a 23% growth in the nursing workforce and is on top of recruitment needed to fill current vacancies.

Fears many will leave profession because of COVID-19 burnout

Health Foundation senior economist Omar Idriss said: ‘There is already a big nursing vacancy rate. To add additional recruitment on to that is quite a challenge.

‘It comes down to government ambition on how quickly they want to clear the backlog of care that has resulted from the pandemic.’

The foundation’s report comes amid concern about ongoing nursing shortages across the UK and fears many will leave the profession because they have been left burned out and exhausted by the COVID-19 crisis.

The latest statistics from NHS Digital show that as of June this year, there were 38,952 registered nurse vacancies in the NHS in England – an overall vacancy rate of 10.3%.

Government says NHS will receive extra £5.4 billion over next six months to tackle waiting lists

RCN England director Patricia Marquis warned patient care would be put at risk ‘for years to come’ without urgent investment in the nursing workforce.

‘With the number of nursing vacancies now heading in the wrong direction this is a warning that can no longer be ignored,’ she said.

The government has announced the NHS in England will received an extra £5.4 billion over the next six months to support its response to COVID-19 and tackle waiting lists.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said there were over 8,900 more nurses working in the NHS compared with last year: ‘We are committed to recruiting and retaining more talented staff, including delivering 50,000 more nurses in our NHS by the end of this parliament.’


Find out more

The Health Foundation (2021) Health and Social Care Funding to 2024/25


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