A report produced by the Health Foundation think tank has found critical shortages of medical staff throughout the NHS, which is leading to increased numbers of less qualified professionals taking on more responsibilities in patient care.
This claims comes in the fourth annual NHS workforce trends report published by the Health Foundation, which covers changes in the size and composition of the NHS workforce in England. This year, they report that there has been an increase in the number of full-time equivalent support staff for doctors, nurses and midwives, and that the ratio of support staff members to full-time equivalent nurses has increased by 10% in the last decade. This is likely to be the result of increasing staffing pressures within the NHS. In particular, social care nursing jobs have fallen by 20% since 2012.
The report does note that changes to the composition of the workforce are implemented well ‘in many cases’, but comments that there is ‘cause for concern’ when these changes are unplanned as a result of financial or recruitment pressures.
However, there are some improvements in nursing, according to the report. Advanced practice nurses now account for 22% of nurses working at GP practices, an increase from the 17% reported in 2015. And the NHS has committed £900m to fund increased staffing from other professions in general practice, such as pharmacists and physiotherapists. The report concludes that ‘this analysis further highlights the deeply embedded challenges of skills shortages in key areas of the NHS- nursing, GP services, and community and mental health services. The effect of these shortages is increasingly felt through problems with access and quality, and this is rippling out to other sectors – notably social care and the nursing home sector’.