The NHS relies on the ‘goodwill of staff’ to maintain patient safety, says report

Concerns have been raised over the ‘unsustainably high levels of vacancies’ throughout the health service

Matt Bodell
23 July 2019
corridor in hospital or clinic image

Nursing vacancies are increasing while applications to study nursing are declining.

A report by the independent NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) has raised concerns over ‘unsustainably high levels of vacancies’ throughout the health service in England.


NHSPRB produces an independent annual report which provides the Government with recommendations on staff remuneration and identifies key workforce issues.

This year report includes major concerns over the increasing nursing vacancy rates and ‘substantial declines in the number of people applying for nursing degrees’.

It also highlights an overreliance on the ‘goodwill of staff’ to work additional ‘paid and unpaid overtime’ in an attempt to maintain patient safety and fill gaps.

While the report admits there are plans in place to bridge the gap it adds these also contain significant risks and will not provide an instant solution to the problem.


A ‘slew of bad news’.

Donna Kinnair, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, responding to the release of the pay review body report to Ministers, said: “In this report, neutral advisors are putting on record their concerns about mounting pressure in the NHS workforce. It should be top reading for any new Ministers this week.

“A report for Government has now put it in black and white that the ‘unsustainably high’ number of unfilled jobs puts patient care at risk and that, in England, the removal of the bursary sent things into ‘decline’.

“They sadly conclude that the lack of accountability for resolving this crisis is adding to the problem.

“The report notes yet again the fact that the NHS relies on the willingness of staff to do unpaid overtime and that should never be the case. The evidence they present here must mark a moment on the way to a meaningful future pay rise.


“It is hard to see how anybody reading this slew of bad news could disagree with our call for an investment of at least £1bn in nursing education and new legislation in England to make sure Ministers and others are truly held to account for addressing this shortage.”

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