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Community nurse shortfall could reach 37,000 without action, says workforce plan

Community nurse shortfall could reach 37,000 without action, says workforce plan

There will be a shortage of 37,000 community nurses by 2036 unless action is taken to address recruitment and retention, the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan has suggested.

In addition, the blueprint predicted a shortfall of 15,800 full time equivalent (FTE) mental health nurses and 1,200 FTE learning disability nurses in the same time period.

The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan – published on Friday after several delays – set out ways NHS England intends to recruit, retain and reform the workforce.

Within the 151-page document, NHS England said that after factoring in ‘ambitious expectations for improved productivity’, its assessment was that unless interventions were made, the NHS workforce shortfall would grow to 260,000-360,000 by 2036/37. Currently NHS workforce vacancies stand at 112,000.

The plan pointed to ‘notable shortfalls’ among specific parts of the workforce, including nursing.

By 2036/37, the plan projected a 37,000 FTE shortfall in community nurses, compared to a 6,500 FTE shortfall in 2021/22. This equates to an almost 470% increase in community nurse shortages over a 15-year period.

Meanwhile, it was also predicted that there would be a 15,800 FTE shortfall among mental health nurses by 3036/37 and 1,200 among learning disability nurses.

‘This is due to fewer nurses taking up training and education in these areas and limited opportunities to fill the domestic shortfall with international recruitment,’ the plan said.

As reported on Friday, the workforce plan outlined its ambitions to increase the number of training places for district nurses in England by more than 150% by 2031/32.

It also pledged that training places for learning disability nursing and mental health nursing would expand by 92-100% and 74-93% respectively by 2030/31.

Meanwhile, NHS England also claimed it aims to grow the number of nursing staff working outside acute settings by just 7% by 2036/37. It added that the total community workforce would almost double in size by 2036/37.

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