The Government’s efforts to recruit 50,000 nurses are not making any significant improvements to the current nurse shortage, a report from the health and social care committee has found.
It said that despite the Government being on track to reach its target of recruiting 50,000 nurses by 2024, this is doing little to meet the enormous number of staff vacancies, with the NHS and social care facing ‘the greatest workforce crisis in their history’.
The report states that ‘current recruitment doesn’t seem to be having any meaningful impact on the true scale of nursing shortages’.
This comes as the health and social care committee’s expert panel pointed out that the Government’s recruitment targets do not seem to have been underpinned by demand modelling’ and there was ‘no evidence’ they ‘were linked with patient and service need.’
The expert panel also added that ‘workforce targets do not seem to be linked to service demand’ and that this failure to provide adequate workforce planning ‘risks having a severe impact on patients and those in receipt of care’.
RCN Director for England, Patricia Marquis said: ‘The findings of the Committee show in the starkest of detail the workforce crisis across the whole of health and social care in England. That persistent understaffing in all care settings poses a serious risk to staff and patient safety should shock ministers into action.
‘On pay the Committee was very clear saying it is unacceptable that some NHS nurses are struggling to feed their families, pay their rent, and travel to work.
‘Their recommendation that nursing staff should be given a pay rise that takes account of the cost of living crisis should make government rethink the latest pay deal that follows a decade of real terms pay cuts that will force even more to leave the profession.’
The damning report also found that, in addition to the nurse shortage, the maternity care services were seriously understaffed, with one respondent saying that their ward was ‘on the edge of being able to cope’.
While NHSE has invested funds for the training of 1,200 additional midwives, the report found that additional 1,932 midwives are needed in order to reach levels that Birthrate Plus considered safe, leaving them over 700 midwives below the minimum safe level.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) told the report that due to staff shortages there was a 20% chance that a mother would be left alone during or shortly after childbirth.
It was recommended that the Government must meet the recommendations of the Ockenden report and invest an additional £200-350m in maternity care services.
The report also recommended that the Government reinstate bursaries for nursing degrees under the conditions that those receiving the funding work within the NHS for at least three years following graduation as part of efforts to reduce spending on agency staff and improve the nurse shortage.
Miriam Deakin, deputy chief executive of NHS providers, said that ‘this expert report shows yet again that the NHS just does not have enough staff, a problem compounded by an overstretched and underfunded social care system.
‘The Government’s failure to fully fund this year’s pay package will make it even harder to recruit and keep the health workers we so desperately need.
The answer is staring everyone in the face: the government must come up with a fully-funded, long-term workforce plan for the NHS.’