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Nurse shortages ‘dire’ even before Covid-19 pandemic, finds RCN

Nurse shortages ‘dire’ even before Covid-19 pandemic, finds RCN


Shortages in the nursing workforce were compromising patient care even before the Covid-19 pandemic began, data has suggested.

The RCN today published survey findings of 41,798 members from January 2020, which shows 73% of nursing staff said staffing levels on their last shift weren’t sufficient to meet the needs of patients safely and effectively while 57% said patient care was compromised.

The workforce report found the Covid-19 pandemic ‘highlighted and exacerbated’ these ‘long-standing’ recruitment and retention issues, and warned demand is rising.

Pat Cullen, RCN chief executive, said: ‘This mounting pressure continues to present grave risks to patients. However, the risks to nursing staff – and to recruitment and retention as these pressures continue – must not be underestimated.’

‘Governments must act on staffing’

In addition, the report highlighted that one in five current nursing registrants are aged 56 or over, who are due to retire in the next few years or ‘earlier given the intolerable pressures they’re facing’.

It also outlined concerns that the UK is ‘over-reliant’ on international recruitment, with just 56% of the new NMC registrants in 2021 educated and trained in the UK. This potentially comes ‘at a cost to other countries needing to retain their workforce,’ it warned.

The report also highlighted previous NMC data showing 11.3% more left the register in 2021 than in 2020, warning this number could ‘continue to increase in the coming years as the pandemic eases’.

Ms Cullen urged UK government to ‘take decisive action to significantly grow the domestic nursing workforce’ through ‘robust policy and investment measures’.

She added: ‘As a minimum, every country in the UK must have accountability for the health and care workforce enshrined in legislation, and a government-funded health and care workforce plan, including fair pay for nursing staff.’

This comes after a survey last week revealed that the British public believes that standards of care in the NHS are declining, with workload and staff staffing levels named the most pressing issues.

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