Further training for nurses and therapists ‘can help NHS meet demand’

17 May 16

Expanding the skills of non-medical staff is the best way for the NHS to meet increasing demand from patients, a think tank has said.

Research by the Nuffield Foundation for NHS Employers concluded that, if nursing, community and support staff were equipped with additional skills, they would be able to relieve pressures on more highly qualified colleagues.

This approach though would present NHS trusts with substantial organisational challenges, and would be difficult in the current financial context.

Nuffield’s report Reshaping the workforce to deliver the care patients need, said there was a growing gap between patients’ needs and the skills of those who care for them.

A typical NHS patient was now elderly, frail and often had multiple conditions requiring numerous hospital stays rather than, as in the past, someone who needed to be cured of a single illness.

The report concluded that skills could be improved in the existing non-medical workforce.

For example, healthcare assistants could be trained to carry out physical health checks that did not require a qualified nurse, while nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists and paramedics, could be further trained as paramedic practitioners, treating patients with chronic illness or minor injury.

Nurses could undertake advanced study to fill some gaps in the medical workforce while non-medical staff could study to become associate physicians, though their numbers were likely to be small.

Author Candace Imison said: “Reshaping the NHS workforce can offer huge opportunities…but we stress this is not simply a ‘nice to do’ – it is urgent, and essential if the NHS is to find a sustainable balance between available funding, patient needs and staff needs.”

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