A second State of the World’s Nursing (SOWN) report will be published in 2025 in an attempt to provide an ‘accurate view’ of the global nursing workforce following the coronavirus pandemic, it has been announced.
In a speech at the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Congress in Canada this week, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus confirmed the organisations would be teaming up once again to produce a second major investigation into the world’s nursing workforce.
Due to be published in 2025, the SOWN report will come five years after an inaugural blueprint, which revealed a global nursing shortfall of 6.6 million.
Dr Tedros said this second ‘critical report’ was dependent on countries’ efforts to share robust data.
‘I am so pleased that WHO will collaborate with ICN and others on the State of the World’s Nursing report for 2025,’ he told the conference in Montreal.
‘This is our second such report, and it’s really needed.’
ICN president Dr Pamela Cipriano said the ICN had ‘long been lobbying’ the WHO to start work on a second SOWN report ‘so that we can have an accurate view of the current nursing workforce in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic’.
‘We have seen anecdotally the impact the pandemic has had on the nursing workforce, whether by person experience or in the effects we have seen it have on our colleagues and loved ones,’ she said.
‘Finally, we will be able to accurately describe the effects of the pandemic on the size of the workforce and see where it has been most affected by the effects of Covid-19 infection.’
Meanwhile, chief executive of the ICN, Howard Catton, said that national nursing associations (NNAs) should play an active role in the collection of data for the report, and must ‘be on high alert’ for the substitution of registered nurses with nursing support roles.
‘Based on what you, our member associations, have been telling us, we need to be on high alert for the global dilution of the registered nursing workforce; we know that would be a threat to global patient safety,’ said Mr Catton.
‘Because the hard evidence is unambiguous: registered nurse substitution and dilution will increase the risk of health harms to patients, including increased deaths.’
Mr Catton said it was therefore ‘critically important’ for countries to only report the number of registered nurses, separating them from other nursing support roles.
This comes shortly after the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan committed to a significant expansion of training places for the non-registered nursing associate role in England.
NHS England said it planned to more than double the number of nursing associates trained in England each year by 2031 from 5,000 to 10,500, with a 40% increased planned in the next six years.
The workforce plan also committed to increase the total number of nurses trained by 34% to 40,000 over the next six years and a further 80% to 53,858 by 2031-32.
The previous SOWN report – published in April 20202 – showed there was not only a significant global nursing shortage, but wide regional disparities in nursing provision.
The report estimated that 5.3 million of the total 6.6 million nursing shortage was located in low and lower middle-income countries, where ‘the growth in the number of nurses is barely keeping pace with population growth’.
Yet, since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic international recruitment of nurses, particularly to the UK, has increased rapidly, creating a far more competitive global recruitment market for nurses.
In 2022, NHS data showed that a third of nurses working in the UK were trained outside of the European Union, up from 18% in 2015.
And in recent years a larger proportion of nurses have been recruited from ‘red-list’ countries; nations from which no active recruitment of healthcare staff is permitted.
A Nuffield Health report found that one London trust increased its share of red list staff by 265 between 2019 and 2022.