The Health Foundation’s new workforce trends report has revealed the extent of the vacancies within the NHS, highlighting the disparity between staff and growing demands in the new “sobering” information.
The report states that the number of people working as fully qualified, permanently employed full-time GPs continues to fall, with numbers showing a 1.6% decline from 27,834 in March 2018 to 27,381 in March 2019. The report goes on to express how it’s “impossible to see how the original target for 5,000 extra GPs could be met by 2020” as “if this is to be reached over and above 2015 numbers the number of qualified permanent FTE GPs would need to increase by 6,250 next year.”
Nursing also remains a key area of shortage and pressure across the organisation, with nursing vacancies increasing to almost 44,000 in the first quarter of 2019/20, which is equivalent to 12% of the nursing workforce. Because of this, the gap between the number of full-time nurses that are needed to keep up with demand and those available to the NHS could grow to 100,000 in a decade’s time, as projected by the Health Foundation, The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust.
The report goes on to state that “Urgent action” is needed to increase the numbers of nurses in training, reduce attrition and improve retention, and details how the analysis “further highlights the deeply embedded challenge of skills shortages in key areas of the NHS – nursing, GP services, and community and mental health services.”
Niall Dickson, chief executive at the NHS Confederation commented on the “sobering reading”, and reminded the public that “With over 100,000 vacancies, additional pressure is being heaped on support staff to plug the gaps – this is neither fair nor safe.”
He continued to say that workforce is the “number one concern among health leaders, and for good reason. All of the major political parties have identified the staffing challenge in their manifestos and this is welcome. What we need to see from an incoming government is urgent action to address what are now widespread shortages among doctors, nurses and other key staff.”
The combined number of nurses working in community and mental health services in 2019 remains below nurse staffing levels in 2014, although higher than the lows experienced over the last four years, but demand has risen due to population growth, “increasing need and the commitment” to improve these services.