Experts predict a shortfall of 350,000 NHS staff by 2030

The report claims that the recruitment and retention crisis is the ‘greatest threat to the health service’.

Matt Bodell
15 November 2018
NHS hospital corridor

A joint report by three health think-tanks has predicted a shortfall of 350,000 NHS staff by 2030.

The joint report by the by the King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation has warned that the NHS could be short of 350,000 staff by 2030 if it continues on its current path.


The report claims that the recruitment and retention crisis is the ‘greatest threat to the health service’ adding; “If the emerging trend of staff leaving the workforce early continues and the pipeline of newly trained staff and international recruits does not rise sufficiently, this number could be more than 350,000 by 2030,”

All three organisations warn that failing to tackle the staffing shortfall risks making the NHS long-term plan ‘unachievable’ – despite the promise of a £20.5 billion increase in the annual NHS budget by 2023.

Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, previously told the HSJ he is ‘increasingly worried’ about the shortage of nurses, GPs and mental health staff.

‘Patient care is already being affected’.

Dame Donna Kinnair, Acting Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The NHS cannot function on a skeleton staff – the number of missing professionals must not be allowed to soar to this level. The Government cannot ignore this warning from leading independent experts. Long before we get to 2030, patient care is already being affected by the shortage of nurses – people waiting ever-longer for life-changing surgery or for a bed to become free.


“If next month’s NHS ten-year plan is to be genuinely forward-looking and more than a wish list, the nursing shortage must be addressed. Funding nurse higher education is key to this – the Government and NHS England must invest at least £1 billion in nursing higher education to attract and support the nurses we need to keep patients safe. The Government’s earlier plan to increase nursing applications by scrapping the bursary has categorically failed – 1,800 fewer people have been accepted onto courses.

“In this report, experts from three leading health organisations echo our call for a properly-funded workforce plan that responds to population need and is underpinned by legislation that holds decision-makers to account for safe and effective staffing levels. This must be drawn up urgently.”

‘Poor working conditions’.

Sara Gorton, Head of Health for UNISON, said: “This briefing reminds us all of the damage inflicted on the NHS by the repeated failure to plan, fund and support the health and care workforce.

“Instead of investing in staffing, ministers introduced restrictive immigration policies and cut training budgets, all of which end up costing the NHS more than necessary in the long term.  Even potential solutions such as using apprenticeship routes to boost future nurse numbers are made unmanageable due to cumbersome government regulations and processes.


“Despite the truly alarming turnover due to poor working conditions in the social care sector, workers continue to be ignored and exploited.

“If ministers are serious about securing the future of the NHS, they should invest in apprenticeships, identify the skills and training needed in social care and make professional development an option for all across health and social care.”

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