Patient care in the NHS could suffer because of a future shortage of nurses, according to workforce research carried out for the Royal College of Nursing.
The annual RCN Labour Market review warns that a combination of the squeeze on NHS finances, reductions in places on nursing courses, and a higher number of nurses moving abroad than are coming to the UK means a shortage is looming.
The review, written by healthcare workforce experts from Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University, also points to the greater role employers are taking in workforce planning, under the government’s reforms. The review said this could lead to a narrow view of need, which could fuel a fall in nursing numbers.
It concludes: “It is becoming clearer that NHS nurse staffing levels in England are likely to reduce significantly over the next five to 10 years if current policies and trends continue.
“We know we risk a nursing shortage, and failure to deal with it now will lead to a failure to improve healthcare, it states. “Without policy change, the overall policy direction of the NHS in England is now towards reduced nurse staffing.”
The review forms part of evidence submitted by the RCN to the NHS Pay Review Body, which will recommend later this year whether staff should receive an increase in basic pay and, if so, by how much.
The RCN is calling for the pay review body to recommend a pay rise for NHS staff after the two year pay freeze, which it says has seen the majority suffer a 9% fall in living standards. It also wants an minimum £250 pay rise for staff earning less than £21,000 a year.
As previously revealed by Nursing Times, evidence submitted by the unions also includes survey results suggesting more than a third of nurses have “very seriously” considered leaving their job over the past 12 months.
Details of the survey results are included in the RCN’s evidence to the pay review body.
Of the 8,701 nurses who responded to the survey, 80% said the reason they would consider leaving was stress and workload, while two thirds said morale had worsened.
Two thirds said falling morale was caused by their dissatisfaction with the quality of care they felt able to provide.
However, NHS Employers, which represents health service organisations, favours an extension of the pay freeze.