health foundation

New Report Warns that England Could Face a Shortfall of 42,000 Nurses by 2020

England could face a shortfall of 42,000 nurses by 2020, equivalent to 12% of the workforce, according to a new Health Foundation report. (Figure includes all adult, children’s, mental health and district nurses and is based on a low supply estimate.)

New analysis of the 2016 NHS staff survey in the report shows that almost half of all nurses are concerned that there aren’t sufficient staffing levels to allow them to do their job properly.

The report also reveals that pay for NHS staff on pay bands 5 and above, which represents 625,000 people and includes all nurses, will drop by 12% between 2010/11 and 2020/21, after accounting for inflation. It warns that without a change to pay policy the situation could become even worse.

In short supply, which looks at nurse staffing levels and NHS pay policy, has found that a serious lack of coordinated workforce planning is one of the ‘Achilles heels of the NHS’. The impact of Brexit on international recruitment is likely to make the situation worse.

Other findings in the report include:

• Most NHS staff will have had a pay cut since 2010/11, when taking into account inflation, and current public sector pay policy implies they will face further real-terms pay cuts in the coming years.

• While Scotland has reportedly developed an almost full suite of safe staffing tools for different health care settings, England so far only endorses three.

Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and Economics at the Health Foundation, said: ‘Poor workforce planning is one of the key risks facing the NHS. We are still not training enough nurses, doing too little to stop nurses leaving, and there seems to be no plan for pay policy following almost a decade of pay restraint. On top of this, the impact of Brexit means that international recruitment – the health service’s usual get out of jail free card for staff shortages – is at risk.

‘Half of nurses don’t feel staffing levels are safe. The stress this places on nurses is causing many to leave the health service, making it even harder to provide safe staffing levels and driving a vicious cycle which can’t be escaped with more quick fixes or short-term solutions.

‘Whatever the outcome of the election, the new government will have to finally get a grip of workforce planning in the health service.’