NHS workforce ‘more stretched than ever’

A new report from NHS Providers highlights the growing demand on the NHS workforce in England.

Findings reveal that many provider trusts’ hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services are struggling to recruit and retain the staff they need to deliver high-quality care for patients and service users.

The report found that while there were 1.2 million people currently employed by the NHS in England (27% of which are nurses and health visitors), a rise in total numbers by 6% between 2013-14 and 2016-17, in the same period the demand for services in some areas had increased by up to three times as much.

Figures show that in 2016-17 there was a 19% increase in the demand for diagnostic tests compared to three years ago. There was also an increase of 15% for ambulance calls and 10% for emergency admissions in 2016-17, and both GP referrals and A&E services were up too.

The figures highlight the huge gap in the NHS workforce in England and the serious issue that demand is outstripping staff numbers.

Saffron Cordery, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, said: ‘If we’re to deliver the high quality patient care we all want, we must change our approach to NHS workforce so that we have the right number of staff, with the right skills, in the right place.’

However, she added that recruiting new staff and keeping existing staff is more difficult because jobs on the frontline are getting harder and more pressurised.

She went on to say that money is also a major issue: ‘Many staff have not received a pay rise for many years, despite having seen their jobs become more demanding and working longer hours. And funding is an issue more generally because even if the workforce were available many trusts cannot afford to recruit more.’

She added that although the government is shifting on public sector pay, it needs to be delivered without strings attached and with additional money so that trusts themselves aren’t footing the bill.

Access the full report There for us: a better future for the NHS workforce here.