Staff shortages within the NHS

Staff shortages within the NHS

Shortages of staff are widespread within the NHS and exist across all disciplines. The NHS is on the brink with too few nurses, midwives, GPs and radiologists. Staff are leaving the service due to low job satisfaction whilst recruitment and retention continues to be a growing problem.

To protect the patients the NHS must have the right number and mix of staff, with the right level of education, qualification and experience. Numerous studies show that low nurse staffing levels were associated with higher rates of falls and deaths.

A shortage of nurses

There is a major issue with nurse recruitment and retention. The overall number of nurses employed has increased but this doesn’t meet the increased demand. Statistics from the Royal College of Nursing in 2020 reveal there are 40,000 nursing vacancies in health and care settings in England. Despite a 0.4% increase in nursing staff since 2019, services continue to struggle.

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly increased the strain on frontline nurses. The RCN are concerned that the extra responsibility and pressure placed on nurses could increase the change of staff “burnout”.

Not enough midwives

There is a serious issue in the NHS with the shortage of midwives. According to the latest survey by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), 8 out of 10 midwives (83%) do not believe their NHS Trust or Board has enough staff to operate safely. Furthermore, 42% report that half of shifts are understaffed and a third say there are significant gaps in rotas.

Similarly, to the shortages within nursing, there is a serious toll taken on morale within midwifery and maternity support units. 71% of staff surveyed have considered leaving their profession and 38% of these are seriously thinking about it. It shows retention could be a serious issue for maternity services.

When Matt Hancock took over as Health Secretary in October 2018, he abandoned the 2021 deadline but reiterated the commitment to increase GP numbers by 5,000. GP numbers continued to fall by around 600 between 2018 and 2019. And yet, the promise was repeated in the run-up to the 2019 general election. This time, 6,000 new doctors to general practice by 2024/25 (half of them fully qualified along with 3,000 trainees).

A lack of GPs

There are widespread problems with both the training and recruitment of new GPs and the retention of current GPs. In 2015 the Government promised 5,000 extra GPs by 2020, then extended to 2021. In 2016 and 2017, the pledge was repeated. By 2018, the official workforce figures revealed they NHS had, in fact, lost 1,000 GPs since September 2015.

Shortage of radiologists

A UK wide shortage of radiologists is a continuing issue, contributing to treatment delays for patients in cancer care and other medical care. Figures published in August 2018 suggest a 30% increase in the workload of reading and interpreting scans between 2012 and 2017. In the same period, the number of consultant radiologists in England has only risen by 15%.