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Change in NHS staffing trends shows fall in permanent workforce numbers

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The NHS workforce is becoming increasingly transient, according to latest survey results

The survey of over 20,000 healthcare staff working flexibly in the NHS showed there had been an upward shift in the number of nurses and other staff choosing, or being offered, non-permanent contracts.

It revealed that, while the percentage of NHS staff working as short-term cover had remained at 5%, the percentage on long-term, flexible contracts had increased to 10%.

This represents an increase of 5% on previous workforce trends, according to a spokesperson for NHS Professionals, the health service’s in-house bank staff provider, which carried out the survey. As a result, 85% of the NHS workforce is currently on a permanent contract compared with 90% in 2005, when the same research was last carried out.

The survey also revealed some of the reasons staff had chosen to work flexibly. For example, a third said they found working full time too stressful and a further 18% had chosen to work flexibly just before reaching retirement.

Additionally, it showed that on average the age of bank nursing staff has risen from 33 to 37 since 2005, while among the flexible workfore in community nursing it had increased from 34 to 44.

More than half of those surveyed have worked in health care for more than 10 years, although most staff who made up the flexible healthcare workforce had experienced other professions.
The NHS Professionals spokesperson suggested the rise in staff wanting to work flexibly tied in with the needs of NHS employers that were attempting to shift services from the acute to community sectors.

‘What we are seeing more and more, because of the shift from secondary to primary care, is that organisations are finding it difficult to predict the workforce they will need,’ he said.
They are opting for staff on flexible contracts so ‘they don’t have to deal with TUPE and other issues if they need to be moved into community settings’, he said.

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