There are almost 40,000 registered nursing vacancies across the NHS in England alone.
The pressure on the NHS is now at unsustainable levels and patient safety and care are being put at risk by staff shortages, according to a new poll of NHS leaders by the NHS Confederation.
NHS leaders in England warn that we have reached a tipping point, with nearly nine in 10 (88%) saying the demands on their organisation are unsustainable.
Almost the same number (87%) also say that a lack of staffing in the NHS as a whole is putting patient safety and care at risk.
The survey of leaders across hospitals, ambulance services, mental health providers, community services, primary care and integrated care systems is published ahead of the monthly performance figures for the NHS in England.
Patients will die.
The greatest areas of concern for NHS leaders are primary care and urgent and emergency care.
Health service leaders issued pretty stark warnings in the survey. One ambulance leader said: “Our ability to respond to immediate life-threatening calls means some patients will die.”
A hospital trust chief executive in the South said: “Systems are at breaking point and risk is unacceptably high (for) some cohorts of patients be that in emergency, primary care, cancer or elective care (or elsewhere) but where is the honesty and openness about this?”
Another hospital director in the South added: “Needing to prioritise inpatient care at the expense of elective care is impacting on patient experience and safety.”
NHS leaders say they want to see much clearer government messaging to the public on how difficult this winter is going to be.
Commenting on the findings, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation said: “Front line providers across all parts of the NHS are under intolerable pressure and we know this is going to get worse over the winter unless we take action now.
“The Government must take every step possible to prevent the NHS from plunging into crisis. The number one measure that Ministers could take now is to provide extra funding and support to social care services.
“This includes making more money available to increase the wages of care assistants to help fill staffing vacancies and to increase their fuel duty allowance so that more care staff are persuaded back into the sector.
“We welcomed the Government’s recent extra investment in the NHS, but we cannot immediately buy our way out of this potential crisis due to the 90,000 plus vacancies we are carrying in the NHS.