A shortage leading to a crisis

UK Nursing is facing an unprecedented recruitment crisis. Currently, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), there are 24,000 unfilled nursing posts in England (https://www.rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/news/fall-in-applicants-threatens-nursings-future) , and a recent report in The Times reported that there has been a 96% drop in applications from EU nurses since the Brexit vote (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nhs-suffers-96-drop-in-number-of-nurses-coming-from-europe-after-brexit-fjqz363tc). This position is set to worsen.

Nurses are a critical part of all healthcare delivery, without adequate nursing staff, healthcare delivery suffers. A number of A&E departments have reported that their nursing staff levels have dropped by as much as 50%, seriously impacting on the delivery of services, and reducing patient and staff satisfaction levels. Of the 60,000 EU Nationals currently working in the NHS, about 22-23,000 are nurses.

The Government has further compounded the issue by removing nursing bursaries and the RCN are calling for an immediate return of this. Recent UCAS figures show that applications for nursing and midwifery degrees have fallen by almost 25% (against a national drop in all higher education of about 5%).

In 2013, the Nursing Times reported that falling nursing numbers is leading to a drop in the delivery of community services, and the Centre for Workforce Intelligence (CfWI) suggested that the NHS would be looking at a shortfall of up to 47,545 nurses. (https://www.nursingtimes.net/roles/nurse-managers/nhs-to-face-chronic-nurse-shortage-by-2016/5059871.article)

Against this backdrop, Trusts are seeing increased demand for services. The current strategy is to move more NHS services to a community and primary care focus – and to reduce the use of acute services across the sector. However, this will require a greater workforce of qualified nurses, and more places at university to train students.

The Chief Executive of the RCN, Janet Davies, stated “It is clear that without urgent action, the UK is heading for a major nursing shortage. This was a preventable crisis, caused by years of cuts to student nurse commissions and a lack of workforce planning. It could be worsened by the Government’s untested gamble with student nurse funding, which our members are clear will have a negative impact on the future supply of graduate nurses, who are vital for delivering safe patient care.” (https://www.rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/news/urgent-action-needed-to-combat-major-uk-nursing-shortage-warns-rcn). She went on to say that “In the near future, this uncertainty threatens international recruitment which the NHS will rely on for years to come.”

All healthcare providers must address the issue of falling nursing numbers as a matter of urgency. Without the correct clinicians available – in the right place and at the right time – to deliver the growing requirements of UK healthcare, we continue to head closer to the precipice.

Schemes such as the Nursing Assistant roles will relieve pressure on the system to some extent, but a fully qualified nurse is much more able to deliver complete care, and without numbers entering the profession increasing, we are only delaying the inevitable.

At Strategic Discourse, we have worked closely with our partner Apsley Business School assist the NHS with this challenge. We have developed a scheme which increases availability of clinical resource and, in keeping with our ethos of protecting front line funding, we have decided not to charge NHS organisations for this.

As the founder of the business, I have taken personal responsibility for this programme, and I would be willing to speak to any NHS organisation struggling with this issue. Please do not hesitate to get in touch via the specialist email address – nursing-programme@strategic-discourse.co.uk for further information.