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”
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.