Healthcare recruiter warns that a strategic approach to workforce planning is needed if the NHS wants to tackle staff shortages before unfilled vacancies grow to 350,000 by 2030
Following the publication of research from Nuffield Trust, King’s Fund and Health Foundation – which indicates that unfilled vacancies across the National Health Service look set to skyrocket to 350,000 by 2030 – Michael Johnson-Ellis, Managing Director of Healthier Recruitment, has warned that Trusts must take a more strategic approach to workforce planning today to mitigate against future catastrophe.
The leading think tanks have identified a range of reasons for the impending shortages, including: the fragmentation of responsibility for workforce issues at a national level; poor workforce planning; cuts in funding for training places; ‘worryingly’ high numbers of doctors and nurses quitting before retirement age; and the effect of immigration policies.
Commenting on the current situation, Michael Johnson-Ellis, who has over 15 years’ experience in NHS recruitment, said: “The scale of the staff shortfall which is predicted to hit the NHS in little over a decade has the potential to be catastrophic. To put it in perspective, 350,000 people is more than the population of Coventry.
“While these latest predictions are deeply shocking – they are not all together unexpected. Many of the Trusts we work with have historically struggled to not only recruit, but also retain, vital skills on a permanent basis. This can then create a snowball effect, where healthcare professionals are unwilling to build a career in a chaotic environment among rafts of agency nurses and locum doctors.
“However, despite this gloomy outlook, it is worth noting that this latest projection is based on a scenario where the current trend of staff leaving the workforce early, coupled with poor talent pipelining, continues – and this is something that we have the power to change.
“The blueprint for how the NHS will spend an additional £20.5bn a year by 2023-4, as outlined in this year’s Budget, is expected to be published within weeks – but we’re now firmly reaching a stage where talent shortages are a greater threat to the future of the NHS than funding, and any future strategy must have a plan to address the workforce crisis at its core.
“Long-term, it is vital that measures are put in place to ensure that skills are developed to pipeline talent effectively if the NHS is to continue to meet growing patient demand. However, in the short term, it is absolutely crucial that Trusts utilise workforces strategically – with a specific focus on engaging and developing permanent staff – if they are to offer the level of patient safety and continuity of care which those in their care expect and deserve.”