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Influential group of MPs to investigate national nurse shortage

  • 9 Comments

The influential Commons’ health select committee has announced that it is to hold a wide-ranging inquiry into the nursing workforce in England.

The inquiry will cover factors including workforce planning, Brexit and language testing, as well as government policies on scrapping student bursaries and creating new routes into the profession.

“There are many factors contributing to the shortfall in nursing staff”

Health committee

In a statement, the committee said it “wished to examine” whether the government and other responsible bodies have a “robust plan” in place to address the shortfall of nursing staff.

It also wanted to ensure ministers and other senior figures were “held accountable for their performance” on the issue, said the committee.

As a result, it said it was seeking evidence from stakeholders on the “current and future scale” of the shortfall of nursing staff in England.

It said it wanted to know if the NHS, the government and its arm’s-length bodies – such as Health Education England – had “effective plans in place to recruit, train and retain this vital workforce”.

In addition, the group of MPs said they would assess the impact of new routes into nursing, such as apprenticeships and nursing associates, as well as student funding reforms.

wollaston sarah web

wollaston sarah web

Sarah Wollaston

“This inquiry will assess the impact of new routes into nursing (including student funding reforms, the Apprenticeship Levy, Nurse First and nursing associates),” said the committee.

“In particular, the inquiry will examine the effect of changes to funding arrangements for nurse training, including the withdrawal of bursaries, and consider alternative funding models and incentives,” it stated.   

The committee added that it wanted to hear suggestions on how policymakers could “optimise the potential” of the new routes into nursing, as well as how they might retain and deploy existing staff more effectively.

Meanwhile, the committee said it was also interested in the potential impact on the nursing shortage of Brexit and English language testing currently used by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

As previously reported, concerns have been raised about the impact of both Brexit and the International English Language Testing System – which overseas nurses have to pass to join the NMC register.

Announcing the inquiry, the MPs cited previous evidence of shortages from the Commons’ communities and local government select committee, National Audit Office and Health Education England.

The committee also highlighted figures published by the nursing regulator in July showing that more people were now leaving the professional register than joining.

There are “many factors” contributing to the shortfall in nursing staff, which could affect the quality of care for patients and the performance of NHS and social care services, it noted.

The cross-bench committee is chaired by Dr Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes and a former GP, who revealed the inquiry during a Commons debate on public sector pay this afternoon.

“We will be looking not just at pay but at those wider workforce pressures”

Sarah Wollaston

Dr Wollaston said: “We will be looking not just at pay but at those wider workforce pressures that they face also around workload, morale and all the other non-pay issues that are contributing to pressures including the increased workload that comes from increasing demand across the system.

“We’re also going to be looking at issues like the new routes into nursing, the impact of bursaries and about what that impact is having on those who are entering the nursing workforce,” she said.

“So we know, for example, that those who drop out of nursing courses are more likely to be those in the younger age groups whereas those who come into nursing as mature students are much more likely to stay. So we need to look at all of these wider impacts,” she added.

As well as looking at new routes into nursing, she said the inquiry would look at “the skill mix more widely and roles within health and social care”.

“We’re also going to be looking at the impact of Brexit and language testing, and workload and morale more widely,” she told the House of Commons.

Other high profile members include former health minister and Labour MP for Exeter Ben Bradshaw and Luciana Berger, Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree and a former shadow health minister.

The committee has asked those wishing to contribute for written evidence of no more than 3,000 words to be submitted by 12 October. It expects to hold oral evidence sessions in November.

  • 9 Comments

Readers' comments (9)

  • I own a nursing home and it has been extremely difficult to recruit nursing staff for the past 6-7 years. If not that I am a registered nurse I would have closed the home or change registration to ordinary care home. Before the problem with recruitment of nurses we had the opportunity of recruiting good and competent nurses from anywhere in the world. Restricting nurses recruitment to EU only does not solve the problem because we only have a small group from the EU who are in UK job. It is very difficult for small providers like me and I wish the government do something about it. Not having enough nurses is the main reason why agency fees are going up. A lot of private homes are not able to afford agency staff because of the cost. We want the best for our clients and the NHS. Why not allow nurses from other countries to work in the UK and give us a better service. If the supply of nurses are adequate everyone will benefit and more will be for the government.

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  • Are they serious???Do they really need a comittee to tell them why nursing numbers falling? Just about every nurse in the country has been telling the government about low pay, poor working conditions (not enough staff/12h shifts etc), Brexit, bumming the bursary, charging nurses for degrees etc. This government has created the perfect storm and is now proposing to set up a committee to find out how they did it???

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  • Are they serious???Do they really need a comittee to tell them why nursing numbers falling? Just about every nurse in the country has been telling the government about low pay, poor working conditions (not enough staff/12h shifts etc), Brexit, binning the bursary, charging nurses for degrees etc. This government has created the perfect storm and is now proposing to set up a committee to find out how they did it???

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  • On the subject of english language testing - is it not extremely important to have excellent communication skills so everyone you are communicating with understands exactly what you are trying to explain?
    Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings regarding all aspects of care and follow up. It would be a very very bad idea to not keep to the IELTs testing. Other countries insist on it. When i was going to move to New Zealand, despite being white British, and english being my native tongue, i had to do this test.
    To retain nurses, you need to look at it holistically, as we are taught to do with the people we care for. It is never just one thing that turns a professional away from the job she/he trained years for, and dedicated time and heart to.
    Look at increased hours, reduced staffing, increased pressure, increased aspects of care, increased responsibilities, reduced pay, removal of the 3 tier system of auxilliary enrolled and registered nurses, the reduction in student time on the wards, the way cleaners are not part of ward staff, and the decline in care in the community - its suprising this bomb did not go off years ago.

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  • I hope they look at the NMC. This despised body needs folding up in its entirity

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  • Just leaving the profession after 25 years, we are treated like dirt. Have they ever calculated the number of hours worked unpaid out of good will? Probably the worst career choice ever.

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  • Suzy

    The committee looking into this is made up of the following people, I doubt any of them are nurses, have recently been nurses or are working regular hours in health care settings. If any are I apologise for saying - how are they going to really understand the issues in order to correct things?
    Dr Sarah Wollaston MP (Chair) (Conservative)
    Luciana Berger MP (Labour)
    Ben Bradshaw MP (Labour)
    Dr Lisa Cameron MP (SNP)
    Rosie Cooper MP (Labour)
    Dr Caroline Johnson MP (Conservative)
    Diana Johnson MP (Labour)
    Johnny Mercer MP (Conservative)
    Andrew Selous MP (Conservative)
    Maggie Throup MP (Conservative)
    Dr Paul Williams MP (Labour)

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  • The answer is in two words: PAY & CONDITIONS.
    So simple even I can understand it. If conditions were better and pay was commensurate with the work's responsibility and required professional knowledge, any nursing job would have applicants queueing around the block. But of course we must not pre empt the esteemed panel's findings- which will probably take many months and mucho dinero in expenses (why don't I get expenses paid? I have expenses: travel, meals etc. But of course this is the politics of envy- damned right I'm envious).

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  • I do agree with the idea of allowing nurses from other countries to work in the UK. Also to review nurses working conditions and salaries. Full time staff nurses are paid less than agency nurses yet they work more than agency nurses.

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