Nurses need to see urgent action to boost their numbers
Fully-funded nurse workforce strategy for England should be ministers’ urgent priority as thinly-stretched nurses see treatment waiting times grow
Nurses are urging ministers to tackle NHS staffing shortages as they are now being spread ‘thinner and thinner’ while treatment waiting lists grow.
Their call comes amid fierce criticism of a lack of nurse workforce planning by the government, which many claim has left the health service ill-equipped to cope with the additional challenges posed by COVID-19.
RCN England direct Patricia Marquis said nursing staff needed to see a fully-funded workforce strategy.
‘Many nursing staff have been going into work with only half the number of staff that are needed but with the same number of patients to look after. Staff are being spread thinner and thinner and struggling to care for their patients safely,’ she said.
‘Ministers need to produce urgently a fully-funded workforce strategy.’
And during a House of Lords debate on the Health and Care Bill last week former NHS chief executive Lord Simon Stevens accused the government of ‘wilful blindness’ in failing to ensure there were enough staff to meet demand.
Hospital waiting lists, staff vacancies and ‘catch-up’ workforce gaps
The number of people waiting for hospital treatment is at an all-time high of six million.
The government has promised to publish an ‘elective recovery plan’ but there are concerns about the staffing of catch-up services when there are already a high volume of vacancies.
The Health Foundation estimates almost 19,000 more nurses and more than 4,000 extra doctors will be needed to get back to the 18-week standard for waiting times.
More scientific approach to workforce planning necessary
England’s health and social care secretary Sajid Javid was quizzed by MPs on the Commons health and social committee last week on where additional nursing and medical staff would come from. Mr Javid said 10,900 more nurses had been recruited in the past year but acknowledged ‘we do need more’ and agreed there was a more scientific approach to workforce planning was necessary.
‘How much we invest in the workforce, the numbers we try to recruit in the shorter and longer term – it must be based on a proper analysis of the needs of our healthcare system,’ he told the committee.
He said the elective recovery plan would be published shortly and would address staffing issues, alongside wider workforce strategies being drawn up.
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