Health Committee Inquiry: Nursing workforce
In October 2017, NHS Providers submitted written evidence to the health select committee as part of its inquiry into the nursing workforce.
Key messages from the submission include:
- Developing a clear view of the nursing shortage: While it is widely accepted that there is a nursing shortage, there is no agreed measure of its scale. Consistent data for nursing vacancy, retention and leaver rates at a local and national level is still widely unavailable. In addition, there is a lack of insight into regional variation and differences between fields of nursing. To address this, we would urge development of a nationally agreed dataset to enable one version of the truth and an agreed figure for the nursing shortfall. The Department of Health and its arm’s length bodies must ensure there is robust, timely and publicly available data at a national, regional and trust level on the scale of the nursing shortage. There must also be a breakdown of this data against each field of nursing.
- Ensuring the future domestic supply of nurses: There must be strategic leadership from the Department of Health and its arm’s length bodies, as well as ongoing monitoring, to ensure the proposed 25% increase of nursing students from 2018 is delivered. The planned increase is very welcome, but the experience of 2017 has shown that growth in student numbers cannot be taken for granted. In addition, while we warmly welcome the introduction of nurse apprenticeships as an alternative route into nursing, we need a realistic understanding of the contribution this route is likely to make to closing the gap between the demand and supply of nurses. Consideration should also be given as to whether postgraduate nursing diplomas can be expanded as a route into nursing, with their funding for 2018 confirmed as soon as possible.
- Enabling overseas recruitment of nurses: Given that there is no domestic quick fix to the nursing shortage, the government’s immigration policy must support trusts to continue undertaking international recruitment. Trusts tell us the current language requirements for registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) are also a barrier to international recruitment. We welcome the NMC’s ongoing review of its requirements and recognise the importance of maintaining patient safety.
- Tackling the factors leading to high levels of stress and pressure being placed on staff: To support trusts to improve retention of nurses, the government needs to take a realistic view of what is asked of the NHS and the funding available, and so help to alleviate stress and pressure on NHS staff. There must also be a plan to end pay restraint, funded by new money, during this parliament.