The drop in overall nurse numbers may have been impacted by more nurses moving on to become advanced nurse practitioners (ANP), a change that NHS Employers ‘did not anticipate’.
Speaking at a Commons select committee on nurse workforce on Tuesday 7 October, chief executive of NHS Employers Danny Mortimer claimed that they had ‘failed to anticipate the growth of the advanced nurse practitioner role, and the demand for nurses operating in an extended role’.
He added that he believed this has ‘had an impact’ on the decline in the nurse workforce.
Speaking at the same select committee, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing Janet Davies believed that the number of ANPs is growing because ‘there are needs of patients to meet’.
But she added that encouraging nurses to develop and expand into these roles was good for the profession, and that the NHS should not be stopping this in an attempt to alleviate workforce pressures.
‘If we want good quality nurses, we need them to expand in their role, and go on and become lecturers and teach the future generation of nurses.’
When asked if the NHS was losing nurses to managerial roles as well, Ms Davies responded that her biggest worry was that the NHS was losing them ‘before they reach that stage’.
‘The NMC can give you the evidence, but my feeling is that these are more experienced nurses that are leaving the profession,’ she said.
One of the issues the panel felt contributed to nurses leaving was the decreasing budget for nurse professional development, with Ms Davies revealing that the budget had dropped by more than 50% over four years.
‘We’ve seen the budget for professional development decrease in the last two years,’ she said.
‘And this for district nurses, advanced nurses – all of these courses for which there is no funding. I can give you the figures on that. Four years ago the budget for CPD was £205m, this year it is £83m.’
Mr Mortimer agreed that the ‘disinvestment’ in professional development was a problem.
He said: ‘The lack of investment in the national training budget limits people. The lack of investment hinders training for these nurses. But there’s also the symbolic value – nurses who maybe don’t want to access this training right now, but may want to in the future.’