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Susan Osborne: The government must listen to global advice and invest in the NHS

With 40,000 registered nurse vacancies in England, the government must stop the cuts and start investing in the NHS as a matter of urgency, says safe staffing expert Susan Osborne. 

With 40,000 registered nurse vacancies in England, the government must stop the cuts and start investing in the NHS as a matter of urgency, says safe staffing expert Susan Osborne 


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A recent report from the RCN estimates there are 40,000 registered nurse vacancies in England alone, a figure which has doubled in the last three years. 

The report – Safe and Effective Staffing: the Real Picture – also highlights how recruiting new staff while retaining current staff is a major challenge for the NHS, with 65% of trusts employing a higher proportion of healthcare support workers than registered nurses in 2016; an unsafe solution to a major crisis.

Running on empty

At the British Medical Association’s annual conference at the end of June, BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said the government is ‘trying to keep the health service running on nothing but fumes’, a result of an explicit political choice to spend a lower proportion of GDP on health than other leading European economies.

He said an extra £15bn could be achieved for the NHS in England in five years if the average proportion of GDP, not even the highest, was spent. 

Health sector is a job generator

According to a 2016 report from the World Health Organization, the health is a key economic sector and a job generator. Demand for health services will continue to increase, creating millions of new jobs. 

But economic growth and development depends on a healthy population, and the right policies need to be in place, along with investment in education and job creation in the health sector.  

The International Council of Nurses has reinforced this, saying ‘the return on investment from the provision of decent work can be substantial; reduced costs associated with staff turnover and better health outcomes.’ 

Unless the government listens to global advice and invests in the NHS, more severe cuts will be made, more patients will suffer, and more hard-working NHS staff will feel forced to leave the jobs they love. 


Susan Osborne is chair of the Safe Staffing Alliance 

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