Focus of NHS workforce planning must be keeping the staff we have

Health Foundation report highlights the scale of the staff turnover challenge, with some parts of the NHS losing almost a third of their workforce every year, writes editor Graham Scott

The lack of coherent workforce planning in the English NHS is hardly news, so another report highlighting the problem is in danger of receiving little coverage. However, Rising pressure: the NHS workforce challenge deserves our attention as it reveals the sheer scale of the looming crisis.

Co-authored by RCNi editorial adviser James Buchan, the Health Foundation report points out that some parts of the NHS lose almost a third of their entire staff every year.

Such high turnover incurs unsustainable costs in terms of recruitment advertising, interviews and inductions, as well as making life even more difficult for the staff who remain.

Bursary burden

Another cause for concern is the fall in nursing student numbers. The number starting training in England this autumn is down by 1,220 on last year, which is hardly surprising given that students now face the double whammy of being charged tuition fees and no longer receiving a bursary to help with living expenses.

Other issues are raised too, but all point to the same solution: the focus must be on retention of existing staff and students, rather than dreaming up new roles and routes into nursing.

Of course, that means improving pay, but it also means making flexible working a reality, so that those who wish to work part-time or around other commitments can do so, but not at the detriment of those who want more regular shift patterns.

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