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RCN urges government to fix ‘chronic’ staff shortages as waiting lists top 5 million

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Operating theatre Waiting lists for hospital treatment have hit 5 million for the first time in the NHS's history

The Royal College of Nursing has responded to the NHS’s latest monthly performance figures by calling for the Government to ease the burden on the profession with better workforce planning. The figures revealed that 5.12 million people were waiting for hospital treatment at the end of April, the first time this number has ever topped 5 million.

‘These figures demonstrate the immense task ahead of nursing staff, many of whom are burned out,’ RCN Acting General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen.’Patient care needs to be at the centre of the plan to recover from COVID-19 but it can’t come at the expense of nursing staff and their wellbeing.’

‘With tens of thousands of vacancies in the NHS in England alone, the Health Secretary needs to take urgent action to address chronic workforce shortages that pose a risk to the safety of our patients.’

There was some good news in the figures, in that the number of patients waiting more than a year for treatment fell for the first time since the pandemic began. It now stands at 385,000 a drop of 50,000 from the previous month. However prior to COVID-19, the figure was just 1,600.

The RCN has proposed a payrise for the already hard-pressed nursing staff, gearing up to deal with this challenge, but says long-term measures to protect to NHS workers from burnout must go further

‘In the short term, a significant pay rise would help retain experienced nursing staff whom health services can’t afford to lose with this challenge ahead. But we need better workforce planning for years to come,’ said Ms Cullen.

‘The forthcoming Health and Social Care Integration bill provides an important opportunity to address this by making population-based workforce assessments and overall safe staffing levels of the whole health and care system a legal duty for the Health Secretary.’

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