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Staffing shortages ‘a risk to making NHS Long Term Plan happen’

NHS England risks not being able to properly implement the Long Term Plan due to staffing shortages, including the 41,000 nursing vacancies, according to a report from the National Audit Office (NAO).

The NAO have claimed that a lack of staff means the NHS ‘will be unable to use the extra funding optimally’ because more expensive agency staff may be used to deliver additional services.

Their report on the financial sustainability of the NHS also saw them interview various Trusts and stakeholders within NHS. Many claimed that even with extra funding, they would not meet performance standards due to recruitment difficulties.

The report details some of the savings made by the NHS so far, with projections of future savings made as a result of the requirements of the Long Term Plan for the NHS to ‘return to financial balance’ and achieve ‘cash-releasing productivity growth of at least 1.1% each year’.

Primary care has already saved £992m, with savings by 2020-21 expected to be £2.1bn, achieved through initiatives such as restraint on pay and reducing prescription charge losses.

The Royal College of Nursing’s director in England, Patricia Marquis, said the report ‘confirms our greatest fear’ that the lack of nurses will hinder the Long Term Plan.

She said: ‘There are 41,000 nursing vacancies in England, which is already jeopardising patient care. But this is not just about numbers. Treating and caring for patients safely and effectively relies on having the right number of nurses with the right skills in place. We are calling for an immediate £1bn investment in nurse higher education to develop the nursing workforce patients need.’