Workforce planning by the NHS is poor, and at times “woeful”, nurses have warned at the Royal College of Nursing annual conference.
The health of the UK will “inevitably take a downward spiral” without action to improve the long-term planning of the health service’s workforce, delegates were told today at the conference in Bournemouth.
Michael Smith, who submitted the resolution on behalf of the UK Stewards Committee, described the approach taken by the NHS as “lackadaisical”, and was particularly poor for community settings.
He pointed out that the average of people joining the register was 29 and the average age of nurses in general was 45, but there were insufficient numbers coming in to replace them.
That this meeting of RCN Congress calls on governments within the UK to change their lackadaisical approach to nursing workforce planning.
The committee claimed that the approach to workforce planning in the NHS had been “uncoordinated and unplanned” for years.
It noted that within England, workforce planning was largely devolved to local clinical commissioning groups and local education and training boards, while Health Education England also worked on regional target setting for nursing commissions based on the projections for future demand.
“There is a concern that workforce planning in England is increasingly being driven by affordability and not demand,” said the committee.
Supporting the motion, Maria Nicholson said the government’s approach to workforce planning was worse than lackadaisical and was actually “woeful”.
Meanwhile, Marie Massey, from the RCN’s Practice Nurse Forum, warned that the community nurse workforce was “dwindling”.
Wendy Fairhurst-Winstanley raised concerns that hundreds of physician assistants – referred to as physician associates by the Department of Health – were being recruited to help with workforce problems in primary care. But she highlighted that they were not regulated.
The resolution was subsequently passed by 98%. In the a vote by RCN members.
- For – 98.47% (483)
- Against – 1.43% (7)
- Abstain – (6)