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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: NHS “sleepwalking” into workforce crisis within 3 years

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The NHS is “sleepwalking” into a "workforce crisis" within three years due to cuts to existing staff numbers and the axing of thousands of nurse training posts, the government has been warned.

The coalition had pledged to protect frontline staff from such cuts even as it demanded £20 billion in efficiency savings.
 
But a report by the Royal College of Nursing entitled ‘Frontline First’ has now revealed that the total size of the workforce has fallen by nearly 21,000 since the government came to power.
 
The figure includes the loss of about 6,150 qualified nursing posts, out of a total of 312,000 across the entire health service, although the number of doctors has risen by 7,000. Another 40,000 jobs have also been put ‘at risk’, with 1,000 posts having entered this category each month since May 2010.
 
The RCN’s assessment is based on official NHS data and information from local trust paper, looking as far ahead as 2015. It warns that, following the axing of thousands of training posts, parts of the NHS face the prospect of nursing shortages within three years, which will force Trusts to recruit staff from overseas.
 
Huge strain
 
The number of nurses being trained has fallen by 14% in just two years, with training places for adult personnel falling by as much as 21% in London, highlighting failures in long-term workforce planning.
 
District nursing is also heading towards crisis as numbers here have dropped by a third since 2001 to 8,000. The situation is likely to put the government’s care in the community policy, which is intended to help treat an ageing population more cost-effectively, at risk.
 
Peter Carter, the union’s chief executive, warned that standards of care were already under “huge strain” in England. But “if this trajectory continues unchecked, then things are going to get a lot worse. There is no rogue information in our data. This is not the worst-case scenario: it is the declared scenario from Trusts”, he said.
 
London was in a particularly bad situation and would simply have to go overseas to countries such as the Philippines to "raid their workforce again" as well as end up with an "over-reliance" on agency and temporary staff in order to "bail out the government’s poor workforce planning", Carter added.
 
But health minister, Dan Poulter, branded the RCN’s use of the word ‘crisis’ as simply scaremongering, adding that it failed to reflect reality. Instead he insisted that NHS performance was strong, with waiting times and infection rates at record low levels.
 
“The health service is changing – the workforce is changing to reflect this, but changes must be decided at the local level, based on evidence that they will improve patient care,” Poulter said.
 
 
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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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