Responding to the latest NHS workforce data, Sally Warren, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, said:
‘The latest data shows an increase of 6% in the total number of full-time equivalent staff working in NHS trusts since this time last year. Additionally, separate data released today shows a slight increase of 1.7% in the total number of full-time equivalent GPs in the past year, but this is still below the government's 2019 manifesto commitment of 6,000 more GPs.
‘While the recent increases are welcome, growth in the workforce has not been evenly spread across staff groups in the NHS. For example, an increase in the number of nurses has been evident in acute hospital settings but has declined in learning disability services and community services. Additionally, the overall growth of the workforce has not kept pace with demand for services, which is increasing at an even faster rate. Beyond the numbers, the NHS workforce is also encumbered with low staff satisfaction, ongoing industrial action, and many staff leaving the NHS due to poor work-life balance. Sickness absence data, also released today, shows the leading reason for staff absence is anxiety or stress, with over 26% citing this as the cause of sickness absence in September. This workforce crisis has a direct impact on the timeliness and quality of care that people receive.
‘The government can help resolve these issues by making careers in health and care more attractive and delivering on its ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan. This means strengthening efforts to drive up recruitment, such as through increasing training and education, but also taking bolder action to improve retention, for example by making the expansion of flexible working a priority for NHS organisations.’
Notes to editors
1. The latest NHS workforce data comprises:
a. NHS workforce statistics October 2023: NHS workforce statistics - NHS Digital
b. NHS sickness absence rates September 2023: NHS Sickness Absence Rates - NHS Digital
c. General practice workforce December 2023: General Practice Workforce - NHS Digital
2. As political parties prepare for the upcoming general election, The King’s Fund has identified three priorities where national action from a future government canhelp to ‘fix’ the NHS and social care and improve people’s health: The King's Fund's priorities for health and care at the next general election | The King's Fund (kingsfund.org.uk)
3. Making careers in health and social care more attractive is one of these three priorities: Making careers in health and social care more attractive | The King's Fund (kingsfund.org.uk)
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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.