The King’s Fund responds to the interim NHS People Plan

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Commenting on the interim NHS People Plan, Suzie Bailey, Director of Leadership and Organisational Development at The King’s Fund, said:

‘Years of poor workforce planning have left patients facing longer waits for treatment as the NHS struggles to recruit and retain enough staff to deliver services.

‘Initiatives to recruit more home-grown nurses are welcome, but will take time to have an effect so the absence of a stronger commitment to recruit more nurses from overseas is disappointing. The immediate nurse shortfall is so severe that it can only be plugged by ethically recruiting an additional 5,000 nurses a year from countries with an over-supply of healthcare workers. It is essential that the government adopts the Migration Advisory Committee’s recommendations to make it easier to recruit foreign nurses and other health and care professionals.

‘In the long term, the NHS needs to become more self-sufficient in training its own nurses. The plan acknowledges the damage caused by the government's education reforms including the abolition of student bursaries, yet offers little action to address this. This needs the government to act by offering more financial support to student nurses.

‘Health and care services need to hold on to the staff they already employ. The plan published today includes a welcome focus on making the NHS a better place to work. There is strong evidence that a motivated and engaged workforce delivers better care for patients, yet staff stress is at a five-year high and levels of bullying and harassment are unacceptable. The commitment to develop a new offer to staff is therefore welcome, as is the recognition that the NHS needs more compassionate and inclusive leadership. This needs to start at the top with national NHS bodies, as the plan rightly points out.

‘Today NHS bodies have set out a welcome vision for shoring up the healthcare workforce. Many of the actions can be delivered without delay by health service leaders, but funding for staff training and other key decisions have been put off until the Spending Review later this year. The staffing crisis in health and care cannot wait – the government must now step up and back the plan.’

Notes to editors

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Andrew McCracken on 020 7307 2585 or 07774 907 960.

The King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation have projected that without decisive action, nurse shortages will double to 70,000 and GP shortages in England will almost triple to 7,000 by 2023/24. Among other measures, the three organisations have called for cost-of-living grants for trainee nurses, investment in staff training, and the ethical recruitment of an additional 5,000 nurses a year from overseas.

The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England.