THE UK government has ignored a catalogue of warnings about the nursing workforce crisis since 2016, a new report from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) released yesterday stated.
A new Health and Social Care Bill is going through Parliament, but the RCN maintains it is not fit for purpose and needs key changes to enable the workforce crisis to be addressed. These include:
- The publication every five, 10 and 20 years by the government of the workforce needed to deliver health and social care services based on population need, that takes into account data from across the sector and is independently verified.
- Ensuring a senior nurse sits on the board of the new regional health and social care organisations (called Integrated Care Systems).
- Ensuring that the commissioning of services is done in partnership with local communities.
- Ensuring that the voices of experts such as Royal Colleges are part of the regulation of the profession.
The RCN’s acting General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen said: ‘While Westminster was consumed by Brexit after 2016, there were more than 20 missed warnings given to ministers about the state of health and care staffing.
‘New legislation this year has to resolve this gross oversight compromising patient safety, once and for all.
‘With ministers gambling on lifting Covid-19 restrictions and NHS waiting lists apparently set to soar to up to 13 million, the public cannot be put at risk a moment longer.
‘We went into this pandemic with almost 50,000 nursing vacancies in the UK – and the true scale of the shortage is unknown. The government has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fix this problem and help a severely depleted workforce. If it doesn’t take this opportunity, it won’t even have the capacity to deliver the law as it is currently set out.’
Three major health thinks tanks – the Health Foundation, the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust – have also released reports on key areas of action needed to tackle the health and care workforce shortages.