The workforce crisis in the NHS continues to bite

Kate Woodhead RGN DMS discusses the findings of a Health and Social Care Select Committee report which has highlighted a crisis in the workforce. She calls on the Government to act on the findings, but also calls for more work to be done to ensure the NHS is a good employer.

The cross-party Health and Social Care Select Committee recently identified a crisis in the workforce, which we have known about for some time. However, a powerful new report may have some considerable impact. We will have to wait and see. The Select Committee highlighted many aspects of recruitment and retention right across the health and social care sectors and across many different professions. They described the current situation as the greatest workforce crisis which poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety in routine and emergency care. They criticise the Government for not taking the issue seriously and for not producing the promised workforce strategy, describing their response to the present crisis as ‘inadequate’. 

The report cites evidence that the staffing crisis in the NHS in England is worse than official figures suggest.1 The Nuffield Trust has separately estimated that the real vacancy rate may be as high as 50,000 nurse jobs empty, while 12,000 doctors are required to fill vacancies. This author has long identified that this is the greatest issue in healthcare, at present, and that the backlog plans are particularly ambitious in the light of the vacancy rate. Health and social care require people to deliver care safely, and the more exhausted staff get with staff spaces all around them, the more will leave – making the situation for those remaining even more difficult. 

There are some excellent ideas in the report, covering a wide range of issues that can be tackled piecemeal and do not require large-scale change – many of which will lead to tackling retention issues.

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