Expert advice

Workforce: Nursing numbers – running hard but not keeping up

Rising staffing levels are failing to keep up with growth in patient admissions, and it is not possible to be confident of having enough NHS nurses now or in the future

Rising staffing levels are failing to keep up with growth in patient admissions, and it is not possible to be confident of having enough NHS nurses now or in the future

The NHS is labour-intensive, with most of its running costs relating to staffing.

As the largest group of NHS professional staff, nurses are an obvious target for cost-cutting. In recent years this has led to understaffing by keeping funded posts vacant, dilution of skill mix and the trimming of continuing professional development (CPD) budgets.

Using staffing as a target for cost saving can all to easily undermine quality, potentially risking patient safety. This we know. But as the United Nations High-Level Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth has stressed, we need to shift the focus.

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