Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has said the upcoming NHS 10-year plan will feature a boost for nurse training to tackle shortages.
He admitted nursing was one of the areas he was most concerned about in terms of the future workforce.
“You’ll see a lot more on [training] in the long-term plan especially with respect to nurses”
Mr Hancock’s comments come as a hard-hitting new report by three health think-tanks today laid bare the nurse staffing crisis facing the NHS in England.
The King’s Fund, Health Foundation and Nuffield Trust warned of a potential 350,000 shortfall across all staff groups by 2030 if trends around patient demand, training, recruitment and retention continued.
The experts said “one of the greatest challenges” sat with nursing and called on leaders to find fresh incentives to encourage students to enter the profession and help employers take on nurse apprentices.
In an interview with the Health Service Journal published yesterday, Mr Hancock acknowledged there were shortages in nurses, GPs and mental health staff.
“Those are the three areas I am most concerned about,” he said. “There are other areas [with problems] some diagnostic capabilities for instance, but the big three are mental health, GPs and nurses.”
Mr Hancock said boosting domestic training, continuing to attract staff from overseas and encouraging professionals to take on full-time contracts rather than bank or agency work were among the solutions available to fill the gaps.
He also indicated that the NHS 10-year plan, due to be published in December, would feature fresh initiatives around nurse training.
“We’ve got work going on on training, and you’ll see a lot more on that in the long-term plan especially with respect to nurses,” Mr Hancock told HSJ.
Latest workforce figures released this month showed that while there had been an overall increase in nurses and midwives on the register from October 2017 to September 2018 compared to the previous year, the number of Britons joining for the first time had fallen by 2,034.
Critics partly blamed the removal of the bursary in England for nurse and midwifery students in August 2017 for the drop in new registrants.
The union Unison also raised concerns about the low take-up of the new nurse degree apprenticeship, introduced in September 2017.
Figures obtained by the union show just 260 staff were registered on nurse apprenticeship courses in the 2017-18 academic year.
In response to the latest Nursing and Midwifery Council data, Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, called on the government to commit extra funds to help employers take on nurse apprentices.
sara gorton for index
She said at the time: “Support staff, including healthcare assistants, are eager for the chance to progress, and have already proven they’re dependable. Their contribution to the future NHS workforce would be considerable.
“But employers won’t let them study without more money to cover the days they’re off the wards. The government is squandering this opportunity by failing to invest in apprenticeships,” Ms Gorton said.
She added: “It’s time ministers rolled the scheme out widely, and gave support staff incentives to sign up, including proper rates of pay.”