Cracks widen in NHS workforce

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We all know what wonderful work our NHS doctors, nurses and support staff do to keep our public health service running as smoothly as possible. But with increasing pressures on the NHS, including funding cuts, Brexit uncertainty and a growing ageing population, it is no wonder that tales of workforce woes are often in the headlines.

Here are just some of the statistics making worrisome reading about out NHS workforce.

  • According to the General Medical Council (GMC), doctors’ fears that increasing time pressures are leading them to take risky shortcuts are leading them to consider whether they want to continue working in the NHS. In a poll of 2,600 doctors, the GMC found that 56% were considering other career options, whilst 21% of 45 to 54-year-olds and two-thirds of 55 to 64-year olds intend to take early retirement by 2021.

  • There also appears to be an increasing reluctance amongst newly trained doctors to enter an overstretched NHS, with a growing number of junior doctors that complete their training choosing not to pursue a career as a hospital specialist or GP. In fact, according to The Times newspaper, more than 50% of junior doctors finishing basic training last year did not continue on an NHS career path.

  • Even those staff that are managing to stick with a career in the NHS are often exposed to levels of stress that lead to sickness absence. Recently, a Freedom of Information Request, revealed that the number of staff who have been absent due to stress, anxiety and depression rose by 17.6% between 2015/16 and 2017/18. This is backed up back the latest NHS Employers Annual Survey, which found that 30% of NHS staff had experienced work-related stress.

  • The pressures of working in the NHS are also having a negative impact on the retention and recruitment of nurses. Earlier this year, figures obtained by the BBC from NHS Digital, revealed that more than 33,000 nurses left the NHS in 2017, piling added pressure on already understaffed hospitals and community services. In fact, there are now more nurses leaving the NHS than joining it.

  • This NHS nursing exodus has been made even worse by the fact that almost 4,000 nurses and midwives from the European Economic Area left the UK in 2017. In interviews with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, 47% of the 227 EEA nurses and midwives who responded agreed that “Brexit has encouraged me to consider working outside the UK” and 59% said that they were leaving or had left the UK.

  •   According to a British Medical Association survey, Brexit is also a serious concern for many European doctors working in the UK. In fact, in Scotland alone 30% are now considering moving abroad and 81% are “unconvinced” that promises made about their rights will be protected if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Clearly, much more needs to be done to support our NHS staff and reassure EEA doctors and nurses working in the UK because when we lose committed and highly skilled healthcare staff, we lose the best of our National Health Service too.