Supply of nurses not keeping up with demand, warns King’s Fund

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The supply of nurses in the NHS is not keeping pace with demand, according to analysis of NHS data by think tank King’s Fund.

The analysis suggested that although the NHS is on track to reach 50,000 more nurses by March 2024 – a commitment from the government’s 2019 manifesto – it does not have a substantial impact on the number of positions. vacancies or the lack of nurses in the NHS.

“This analysis shows that the government is at risk of hitting the target but missing the point,” said Jonathon Holmes, policy adviser at the King’s Fund and who conducted the analysis. “The supply of nurses may have increased, but so have the demands on the NHS – there are still significant shortages, with 40,000 vacancies for nurses.”

The report says this trend is not explained by worsening retention rates, as data showed the proportion of nurses leaving the NHS had remained stable throughout the Covid-19 pandemic – therefore , the problem was that the demand for nurses grew faster than the supply. .

He said that despite good progress towards the 50,000 goal, and although the pandemic and new targets to increase diagnostic and elective activity have created new demands and exacerbated labor shortages, the problem predates Covid-19.

“It has been too easy for successive governments to dodge the challenge of the health and care workforce. The regular publication of labor supply and demand projections would provide much-needed impetus to tackle the staffing crisis,’ said Mr Holmes.

“The NHS and social care workforce crisis long predates the Covid-19 pandemic. This follows years of poor planning, weak policies and fragmented responsibilities. Government efforts to recruit more staff are welcome, but unless the targets are based on the expected increase in demand for health and care services, they are unlikely to solve staff shortages who crippled the NHS and social care for years.

The regional picture was also more complex: the South East, South West and East of England grew their nursing workforce at a significantly higher rate than Greater London, the Midlands and the North East and the Yorkshire.

However, while the South East of England has increased its full-time equivalent workforce by 17%, its vacancy rate has increased by more than 12%. The East of England has increased its workforce by more than 20% but its vacancy rate has also increased. Only the northwest and southwest saw the number of vacancies decrease.

The King’s Fund has called for a regular assessment of the demand and supply of nurses in the NHS to assess any shortfalls or surpluses to allow the NHS to adjust its workforce and business plans accordingly.

He also warned that without it, long-term labor shortages would continue and demands on the NHS would become more severe. However, MPs voted against an amendment to the Health and Care Bill to again grant greater transparency about NHS staffing yesterday.

Mr Holmes added: ‘Only one in four NHS workers now believe there are enough staff in their organization to do their job properly, and the public now cite labor shortages as the second reason most common form of dissatisfaction with the NHS. It is time for ministers to recognize the labor crisis as a priority as well.

Despite the overall increase in the number of nurses, figures released last month revealed that the number of nurses in GP settings saw no growth, from 16,352 FTE nurses in September 2019 to 16,351 in December 2021 and that the number of medical visits fell from 6,981 to 6,194 during the same period.

NHS providers chief executive Chris Hopson has warned that shortages of health and care workers are now having a “very clear” impact on care.

Meanwhile, RCN Scotland said an overseas recruitment drive would not solve the country’s staff shortage.

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