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Workforce: Radical action needed to fill shortages

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Training must increase sharply Training must increase sharply

The NHS will have a shortfall of 108,000 full-time equivalent nurses in ten years’ time if current trends continue, a report by three healthcare think tanks has found.

According to the report, published by The King’s Fund, The Nuffield Trust, and the Health Foundation, half of this gap could be bridged by increasing the number of nurses joining the NHS from training. This would require 5,000 more nurses to start training each year by 2021, reducing the drop-out rate during training by a third and encouraging more nurses to join the NHS once they qualify

‘The staggering numbers in this report should cause alarm in Whitehall and focus the minds of ministers on the cash they must put on the table to close the gaps,’ said Acting RCN Chief Executive Dame Donna Kinnair.

‘Nursing staff are the first to admit that, despite straining every sinew, the care of their patients is too routinely compromised by these shortages.’

The think tanks recommend that the government significantly increases the financial support to nursing students with ‘cost of living’ grants of around £5,200 a year on top of the means-tested loan system.

Additionally, further action, including covering the costs of tuition fees, should be taken to triple the number of nurses training as postgraduates. The think tanks say this is essential to address the financial problems trainee nurses face while studying that deter students from starting a nursing degree and are a factor in the high drop-out rate during training.

‘Patients are facing longer delays for NHS treatment as services struggle to recruit and retain enough staff. Without radical action to expand the NHS workforce, there is a very real risk that some of the extra funding pledged by the government will go unspent, waiting lists will continue to grow and important improvements to services like mental health and general practice will fail,’ said Richard Murray, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund.

‘NHS workforce shortages are mirrored in social care where poor pay and conditions continue to drive away staff. Social care is heavily reliant on overseas recruitment, but the government’s post-Brexit migration proposals risk limiting this vital source of workers. The government should go back to the drawing board to devise a route for care workers to enter the UK and develop a more sustainable funding model for social care.’

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