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NHS trust leaders warn staff shortage concerns outweigh fears over funding

More than half of NHS Trust leaders in England are worried they do not have the right staff numbers, quality and skill mix to deliver high-quality care, a new report reveals.
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More than half of NHS trust leaders in England are worried they do not have the right staff numbers, quality and skill mix to deliver high-quality care, a new report reveals

A survey of 172 chairs and chief executives from 136 hospital, mental heath, community and ambulance trusts by NHS Providers found that two thirds believed they currently provided high-quality care.

But the State of the NHS Provider Sector report also revealed less than half (46%) of those surveyed believed their trusts would be able to provide high-quality care in six months time.

NHS Providers, which represents NHS acute, ambulance, community and mental health services, said the findings showed that, for many trust

More than half of NHS trust leaders in England are worried they do not have the right staff numbers, quality and skill mix to deliver high-quality care, a new report reveals


For many trust leaders, worries over staffing is becoming more urgent
than funding concerns. Picture: Jim Varney

A survey of 172 chairs and chief executives from 136 hospital, mental heath, community and ambulance trusts by NHS Providers found that two thirds believed they currently provided high-quality care.

But the State of the NHS Provider Sector report also revealed less than half (46%) of those surveyed believed their trusts would be able to provide high-quality care in six months’ time.

NHS Providers, which represents NHS acute, ambulance, community and mental health services, said the findings showed that, for many trust leaders, worries over staffing were becoming more urgent than funding concerns.

‘Less resilient’

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson also warned that local NHS services could be destabilised by winter flu outbreaks.

The report said the NHS was running at capacity levels beyond the recommended norm, and as a result were less able to cope with issues such as seasonal flu outbreaks.

 In a speech to the NHS Providers Annual Conference and Exhibition in Birmingham on Tuesday, he said: ‘The service is becoming much less resilient. When you run a system under as much pressure for as long as we have been running the NHS, it becomes much less able to absorb the shocks that any health system has to absorb. 

‘Shocks such as the winter flu outbreak, the closure of a couple of local care homes due to a Care Quality Comission inspection, or a provider going out of business, a few experienced GPs retiring and being replaced by more risk-averse locums or new partners leading to sharply higher referral rates.

‘Destabilising’ shocks

‘Given the capacity levels at which we are now permanently running our hospital, ambulance, community and mental health services, these small shocks risk destabilising local health services.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said there were more than 25,800 extra clinical staff on its wards, almost 2,300 more paramedics in its ambulance services, and nearly 40% more district nurse training places available since 2010.

‘We have also expanded mental health nursing trainee places at a faster rate than any other nursing speciality in the NHS since 2012,’ the spokesperson said. 

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘Winter bugs and illnesses always bring more pressure on emergency services, but this year hospitals began planning earlier, flu vaccination rates are generally encouraging and we are working far better with senior local council officials in health and social care right across the country.’


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