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UK heading for a major nursing shortage

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Brexit could diminish the workforce Brexit could diminish the workforce

A third of nurses intend to retire in the next ten years, and with a lack of nurses being trained, the UK faces a huge shortage of nurses in the near future.

This was the conclusion of a report into the nursing workforce by the Institute of Employment Studies, which also found that safe staffing levels and increasing healthcare demands on NHS services have increased the demand for nurses. At the same time, NHS providers have faced greater financial difficulties making recruitment more challenging.

‘This was a preventable crisis, caused by years of cuts to student nurse commissions and a lack of long-term workforce planning,’ said Janet Davies, chief executive of the RCN.

According to the report, the government has failed to fund enough training places for nurses, meaning that the NHS is increasingly reliant on nurses from overseas, who currently make up 12.5% of the workforce. After the decision to leave the EU in June, concerns have been raised that the EU nurse workforce could be at risk.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers said there are significant concerns that the shortage of nurses in the UK will not be helped by the uncertainty felt by EU staff working in health and social care.

Nursing was added to the shortage occupation list at the end of last year which meant that international nurses were exempt from rules which could see them having to leave if they do not earn £35,000 within six years of coming to the UK.

Some nursing leaders, including Ms Davies and chief executive of the QNI Crystal Oldman have said that scrapping the student nurse bursary could exacerbate the nursing shortage in particular district nurses.

‘It could be worsened by the government’s untested gamble with student nurse funding which our members are clear will have a negative impact on the future supply of graduate nurses, who are vital for delivering safe patient care. Thanks to years of short-term thinking, the UK is completely unprepared to deal with the challenges posed by an ageing workforce, increasing demand, and now the uncertainty caused by leaving the European Union,’ added Ms Davies.

In the QNI's response to the student bursary consultation, Ms Oldman said that the charity also had concerns about 'the withdrawal of the UK from the EU; which may impact on the number of European nurses able to join the NHS in future years'.

Dr Rachel Marangozov, lead author of the report said that 'even the additional 15,000 visas for international nurses recommended by the MAC will not be sufficient to plug this gap in the workforce'. She urged the government needed to act now to tackle the issue of recruitment.

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