Hospital Dr News

NHS Providers calls on next government to tackle NHS workforce challenges

NHS staff are opting to stack shelves in supermarkets rather than work in healthcare because of years of poor pay rises.

This is the message from Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, who said workforce concerns are now the number one NHS priority.

Hopson said: “Growing problems of recruitment and retention are making it harder for trusts to ensure patient safety. Unsustainable staffing gaps are quickly opening up in hospitals, mental health and community trusts and ambulance services.

“Years of pay restraint and stressful working conditions are taking their toll. Pay is becoming uncompetitive. Significant numbers of trusts say lower paid staff are leaving to stack shelves in supermarkets rather than carry on working in the NHS. And we are getting consistent reports of retention problems because of working pressures in the health service causing stress and burnout.”

NHS Providers, which represents almost all of England’s 240 NHS hospital, mental health and ambulance trusts, told ministers that the government’s longstanding policy to suppress the pay rises of NHS staff is wrong and is damaging the service.

The Tories intend to limit NHS staff’s pay increases to 1% a year until 2020.

A paper from NHS providers calls for:

  • Funding which allows trusts to deliver the standards expected by patients and enshrined in law in the NHS Constitution
  • Investment in social care: ensuring the extra money in the budget is used to ease pressure on the NHS, alongside a sustainable long-term funding solution
  • Action to ensure words promising parity for mental health are matched by deeds. That means higher levels of investment and, critically, making sure that investment reaches the frontline
  • Support for new ways of working and closer collaboration between health and social care so more people can be treated and supported closer to home.
  • Establish the long-term funding needs of the NHS to ensure it can meet the increasing demands of an ageing population
  • Recognise the economic value of the NHS as an organisation that provides employment, promotes research and ensures the UK life sciences sector is globally competitive

NHS Providers cited four examples of NHS workforce shortages and the impact they are having:

  • Insufficient mental health nurses leading to delays in treatment, people taking longer to recover, and as a result care is more expensive and patient experience is worse
  • Insufficient A&E consultants leading to greater risk to patient safety, more people not being seen within the four-hour standard and a much greater burden on junior doctors in training
  • Insufficient paramedics leading to unsustainable pressure on many ambulance services and trusts having to ask existing staff to work demanding levels of overtime or employ more agency staff; and
  • Insufficient community nurses which means it will be very difficult to deliver the Five Year Forward View Vision of moving care away from hospitals into the community, closer to home.
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