Government fails to understand the needs of the nursing profession, finds report

The removal of the NHS bursary in 2017 signally “failed to achieve the Department’s ambition to increase nursing student numbers”. 

James McKay
24 September 2020
Hospital at night time night shift

A damming report published by the Public Accounts Committee warns of an “emerging crisis”.

The Department for Health & Social Care (DHSC) fails to understand the needs of nurses or the demand on the profession, according to a new report.

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A damming report published by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warns of an “emerging crisis” for nursing after COVID due to a failure to train enough nurses and an over-reliance on international recruitment.

The committee said they are “not convinced” the NHS would have 50,000 more nurses by 2025 and commented that the figure lacks “a complete assessment of the type and number of nurses needed”. “Low morale and huge numbers” was cited, supporting a recent Royal College of Nursing recently showed that over a third of nurses are considering leaving nursing, up from 28% before the pandemic.

It also concluded that the removal of the NHS bursary in 2017 signally “failed to achieve the Department’s ambition to increase nursing student numbers”.

The report also raised concerns about a failure to protect Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) staff, who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

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Low morale and huge numbers leaving.

The report provides several recommendations including a better focus on nursing in social care and workforce modeling to ensure nurses are trained in the right regions and specialisms.

Meg Hillier, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee and the Labour  MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said: “The picture from the front line of nursing in the NHS and care homes is not good.

“I fear with the strain of a huge shortage of nurses and the worrying reports of low morale and huge numbers considering leaving in the next year, we are facing an emerging crisis in nursing.

“We fully recognise that the NHS is reeling under the strain of Covid-19, with staff unsure how they will cope with the second wave that it seems clear already upon us. But it must not take its eye off the ball and allow a slide back into short-term, crisis mode.

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“It must press on with coherent plans to get the nursing workforce back to capacity, under the kind of working conditions that can encourage hard-won, hard-working nurses to stay in our NHS and care homes.”

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