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Warning that 'serious action' needed to increase supply of nurses


“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”

Stephen Dangerfield

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.

Stephen Dangerfield

Stephen Dangerfield

“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.


Readers' comments (21)

  • Until basic pay is improved, it will continue to be difficult to recruit native English-speaking nurses. Who in their right minds would apply for a job with such high stress levels and such miserly employers that they won't even grant the 1% pay rise recommended by an impartial body?

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  • agree with above, high stress, no morale, treated like shit, pay rubbish

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  • I do agree that conditions and pay have an impact on people coming into nursing. There is also a large percentage of people of my age 51 who have given 30 years to the excellent health service but feel that the short staffing numbers and inability of senior mangers to understand what we actually do is leading to many retiring earlier than they would have. I wont be sorry to leave even though I am very proud of my role and the work I have done and also the NHS in many ways. Its easy to be passionate about the work to new staff and students. I now find its much harder to justify why they don't get time to sit with patients, or spend time talking to relatives. Its also very hard to accept that often they work lots of unpaid overtime by missing breaks or getting off late. I feel that as nurses we care and that's why we have tolerated what many institutions would never have done, unpaid work and emotional stress when you cannot achieve what your patient needs as there are not enough of you to do it.

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  • Lots of British boys & girls would love to do this work
    A toxic combination of poor central planning & unhelpful unions have put a lot of people off.
    The centralised resource planning of the NHS has been a disaster for the taxpayers & patients.

    This one will all come out in the wash, by the usual practice of pinching much needed healthcare staff from 3rd world countries.
    Use of the corrupt & expensive bank

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  • We must avoid recruiting in the third world as their need for nurses is as great if not greater than ours. We must reinvigorate our own nursing profession and make it an attractive option as a career for young people. This calls upon Government's across the UK to invest in the workforce in a way that recognizes not only the requirement for safe and excellent care provision, but one that acknowledges that nurses also require a work life balance in order for them to develop and remain happy and satisfied in both work and play. Until we reach that position the prospect of stress and burnout by the time you are 24 years old is not an attractive option for a career.

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  • At 55 I have recently retired from working full time in the NHS. I could no longer cope with the workloads and unpaid overtime that is expected of nurses. There is much which could be done to improve retention of older staff in the NHS, but employers pay lip service to this, if they acknowledge it at all.

    However, it does seem as if this is not putting young people off applying for the places available to train as nurses. I am told that there are multiple applicants for each university place on offer. The government simply needs to train more nurses and retain those it has already got.

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  • be an MP instead you will get all your perks and oh an 11% pay rise this year

    work in the rise 0%

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  • Watch this space. Am applying for numerous jobs and am rusty clinically, so lets see if anyone offers me a job. Qualified over 30years ICU, Oncology, management diploma etc etc.

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  • Why not make it easier for good HCAs to get into nursing instead of demanding such ridiculous numbers of UCAS points

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  • Its also education. They have had such a drive to improve the quality of nurses they've made everything degree based and have to be qualified out your eye balls before you go in to train.
    Its not all about education, you have to have something to be a nurse care compassion empathy basic standards of care! the new qualified nurses seem to lack quite a lot of that.
    Bring back the diploma and let more train to be nurses!

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