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Future shortage of specialist nurses ‘threatens care of dying people’

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The care of dying patients could be put at risk due to the growing recruitment crisis in nursing, warns a new report published by the National Council for Palliative Care.

It raises concerns that an ageing palliative care nursing workforce could in the future have a damaging impact on the care that terminally ill people receive.

“An ageing nursing workforce could present real problems in the future”

Simon Chapman

The report covers findings from the latest edition of the NCPC’s Specialist Palliative Care Workforce Survey.

The survey, commissioned by Public Health England, revealed that 44% of specialist palliative care nurses were over the age of 50 in 2013, a figure that has increased each year over the last five years.

The report said this “picture of an ageing workforce” should be seen in the context of increased demand for palliative care. It is projected that numbers of people dying each year will increase from about 500,000 at present to about 586,000 by 2030.

Concerns are also raised in the report about problems with data availability on the palliative care workforce – making it hard to establish the true size and nature of the palliative care workforce, including staff shortages.

Simon Chapman, director of policy, intelligence and public affairs at the National Council for Palliative Care, said: “An ageing nursing workforce could present real problems in the future. That’s why we need more in-depth research to understand the reasons for this so we can ensure a looming crisis is averted.”

The National Council for Palliative Care is the umbrella organisation for charities involved in end of life care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It also leads the Dying Matters Coalition, which aims to help transform public attitudes towards dying, death and bereavement in England.

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • michael stone

    'Concerns are also raised in the report about problems with data availability on the palliative care workforce – making it hard to establish the true size and nature of the palliative care workforce, including staff shortages.'

    There are large 'data gaps' for many aspects of care and behaviour around dying - this particular one, seems rather strange (surely clinicians know what field they are working in, and what their qualifications are - so this looks as if it is a gap which could be filled, by asking questions that are not 'inherently upsetting' {which is one of the reasons, for some of the other gaps}).

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  • What happens to staff when they are over 50 then? Do they explode or disappear? I am over 50 and will not be collecting my pension until I am at least 67 that means 15 more years in which to train and nurture sufficient numbers of staff to take over.

    I am not sure why so much notice to recruit, train and nurture staff to the right level would be a crisis.

    I would also point out that two of the excellent nurses that I work with are in their 70's and really don't want to retire.

    The real crisis is that, thanks to lack of forethought, there aren't enough nurses NOW!

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  • Golcarnall | 14-Oct-2014 4:51 pm
    Totally agree we have been trying to get Nurses to back a training scheme to encorage Senior MCAs to upgrade to a specialist Nursing grade for Nursing Homes with no emphasis on degrees etc.
    NO SUPPORT AT ALL !! maybe now that we are all in crisis people might think about it, this needs to happen a.s.a.p so that we do not loose all the experiance of people like you

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