NHS facing 38000 nurse shortage even if government hits … – Nursing Times

‘This is a situation that cannot go on indefinitely’
20 July, 2022 By
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There will be a shortfall of almost 40,000 nurses in England by 2023-24 even if the government hits its target of securing 50,000 more nurses by that year, new analysis suggests.
The Health Foundation’s REAL Centre workforce projections calculate that although the government appears to be on track to meet its manifesto pledge, this will still leave NHS trusts and general practice short of around 38,000 nurses when factoring in changes to demand.
“The 50,000 target is arbitrary and not based on the number of nurses the NHS needs”
Anita Charlesworth
The analysis concludes that the government target of recruiting an extra 50,000 nurses, compared with 2018-19, is an “arbitrary” figure that does not reflect the greater need for nurses to staff the NHS caused by an ageing population and an increase in the number of people with complex health conditions.
The think tank also included longer-term predictions in its report based on trends up until 2020-21, which found that in a worst-case scenario NHS trusts could face a shortfall of around 140,600 nurses by 2030-31.
However, it said that a combination of a sustained increase in students starting nursing degrees, a cut in the number of nursing students leaving their courses before qualifying, a drop in the proportion of nurses retiring early, and continuing overseas recruitment, could mean that the projected demand for nurses would be met for NHS trusts in a decade’s time – but not in general practice or social care.
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Director of research and REAL Centre at the Health Foundation, Anita Charlesworth, said while the government appeared to be on track with its 50,000 more nurses target, it “relies heavily on sustaining historically high levels of international recruitment, very much a ‘quick fix’ and does not replace the need to train and retain more nurses in the UK”.
“The 50,000 target is arbitrary and not based on the number of nurses the NHS needs; nor does it ensure that nurses are recruited to the areas and types of care where the need is greatest,” she added.
“50,000 extra nurses will still leave the NHS almost 40,000 short of what is needed.”
“These projections show the apocalyptic impact inactivity from ministers could have on the NHS in England”
Patricia Marquis
Ms Charlesworth urged the government to “put in place a robust, costed long-term plan to address workforce shortages, backed up by independent projections of how many staff will be needed”.
Responding to the report, Royal College of Nursing director for England, Patricia Marquis, said: “These projections show the apocalyptic impact inactivity from ministers could have on the NHS in England – a potential shortfall of 140,000 nurses would be devastating for patient care.
“The report also shows that even with 50,000 more nurses, there will still be a shortfall of tens of thousands.”
Ms Marquis pointed to latest data from the Nursing and Midwifery Council which showed almost 20,000 nurses left the register in England during the past year and urged ministers to “heed the warnings in these projections and act decisively with a fully funded health and care workforce strategy”.
Also responding, NMC chief executive and registrar Andrea Sutcliffe agreed there was a need for a “sustainable workforce plan that takes demand for health and care services into account”.
Ms Sutcliffe added that national and local health and care leaders must focus on staff recruitment, retention and wellbeing to help “close the gap between the nurses we’re likely to have and the nurses we’ll need in the years ahead”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “There are over 9,600 more nurses in the NHS compared to last year – and we are well over halfway towards meeting our commitment to recruiting 50,000 more nurses by 2024  – which will significantly increase nursing capacity across the NHS.
“We are working to retain the existing workforce, boost training and education routes into nursing and use international recruitment opportunities to supply the NHS with a long-term sustainable nursing workforce.
“We have also commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term workforce strategy to help provide certainty for the future.”
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