Worries over NHS staffing a key election concern

NHS Providers says politicians must address rapidly growing concerns over the NHS workforce in the general election campaign. A combination of pay restraint, the impact of Brexit and the absence of a robust long term NHS workforce strategy are taking their toll. 

In a seven point policy paper, NHS Providers says that despite the longest and deepest financial squeeze in NHS history, trust leaders are now reporting that finding and keeping the right number of people with the right skills needed to deliver high quality care has become their biggest challenge. The growing workforce problems mean that NHS services are having to close unnecessarily, the timeliness and quality of care patients receive is being adversely affected and the burden on NHS staff is becoming unsupportable.

NHS Providers calls on whichever party is in government to work with NHS national bodies to agree and fund a long-term approach to workforce planning and to consider when and how to end pay restraint.

The document says demand for services is rising and patients' needs are becoming more complex. The gap between the demand for and supply of suitably trained NHS staff is growing.

NHS Providers calls on whichever party is in government to work with NHS national bodies to agree and fund a long-term approach to workforce planning and to consider when and how to end pay restraint.

 

 

The paper also calls for: 

 

The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson said:

“Workforce concerns are now the number one NHS priority.

“Growing problems of recruitment and retention are making it harder for trusts to ensure patient safety. Unsustainable staffing gaps are quickly opening up in hospitals, mental health and community trusts and ambulance services.

“Years of pay restraint and stressful working conditions are taking their toll. Pay is becoming uncompetitive. Significant numbers of trusts say lower paid staff are leaving to stack shelves in supermarkets rather than carry on working in the NHS. And we are getting consistent reports of retention problems because of working pressures in the health service causing stress and burnout.

Years of pay restraint and stressful working conditions are taking their toll. Pay is becoming uncompetitive.

“At the same time, trusts are reporting that the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and the failure to reassure EU nationals about their long-term future, mean that vital recruitment from EU countries is dropping rapidly.

“Yet all the evidence shows that staff who are happy and motivated provide better care.

“NHS Trusts want to see strategic solutions in place dealing with pay, the supply and demand of staff, retention and training. But they tell us they see no sustainable long term plans in place.”

 

Four examples of NHS workforce shortages and the impact they are having include: 

 

See our infographic, “The NHS – at the heart of our national life”, which sets out in broad terms the role and activities of the NHS, and the challenges it faces.

“Investing in success – NHS priorities for the new government” presents in more detail the state of the NHS provider sector, and what trusts need from politicians over the next parliament.

Director of policy and strategy, Saffron Cordery blogs about the workforce issues behind our "Investing in success - NHS priorities for the new government" policy paper. 

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