“Serious action” is required to fill a predicted 30,000 shortfall in clinical staff within the NHS over the coming years, the organisation responsible for recruiting temporary workers to the health service has warned.
According to NHS Professionals, there has been a “substantial” increase in demand – around 20% – for more nursing staff over the past four years and this is expected to continue.
The organisation’s chief executive Stephen Dangerfield also said the supply of nurses from some countries within the EU was now being “eaten up”, suggesting that future international recruitment drives would have to go further afield.
Speaking at as part of a session on safe staffing levels at the CNO summit in Manchester yesterday, Mr Dangerfield said data suggested the demand for nurses at the moment was similar to the shortfall last seen more than a decade ago.
“Even the combination of the high-cost, expensive agencies and the standard bank service aren’t filling the demand”
He said: “In 2001 and 2002, clearly the market situation was very similar to that which it is today. At that point… during a 12 to 18 month period some 30,000 clinical staff were recruited to address a shortfall in the market.
“If you look at that and the data we have, you think that’s the kind of number we are probably looking at again,” he told delegates.
Mr Dangerfield added that there had also been a 70% increase in the use of agency staff to fill posts in the last year.
However, he said, staff recruited through NHS Professionals, banks and agencies were still unable to fill up to 20% of shifts that required extra staff.
“So even the combination of the high-cost, expensive agencies and the standard bank service aren’t filling the demand. And that demand continues to grow,” he said.
Mr Dangerfield said a combination of factors – including bringing back nurses into the profession, pay rates and availability – would help to improve the supply of nurses and reduce reliance on agency staff by trusts.
“It is possible to bring down agency spend, but with that shortage of qualified nurses at the moment there has got to be some fairly serious action taken to increase that supply,” he said.
Health Education England, which plans training capacity, published the first ever national workforce plan for the NHS in December, promising a 9%increase in the number of training places for nurses. This will amount to 13,228 university places for trainee nurses from 2014-15.
Jan Stevens, director of HEE in the Midlands and East, spoke as part of the same session about how to retain the workforce through activities such as flexible retirement and using older nurses to help train younger ones.
She said trusts needed to “dust off” the shared practice that was learned from the last “boom and bust” period more than a decade ago.
“It is déjà vu for me, in the 2000 scenario when we all shared our practice for retaining nurses – we do need to dust it off and make sure we are all thinking about it,” she said.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, HEE recently launched the Come Back to Nursing scheme to try and encourage former nurses return to practice.