Committee calls for more resources invested to retain nurses

26 Jan 18

A parliamentary watchdog has urged the government to improve nurses’ working conditions and access to training in order to prevent an increasing number of staff leaving the profession.

An inquiry by the health committee blamed poor NHS nurse retention rates on workload pressures, poor access to continuing professional development and the impact of Brexit.

According to Health Education England, around 33,000 vacant nursing roles in the NHS in England are currently filled by temporary staff, and 3,000 posts are unfilled. The Royal College of Nursing puts the overall vacancy figure at around 40,000.

The committee called on HEE to reverse cuts to continuing professional development budgets and for health trusts to ring-fence CPD funding for nurses. 

It also recommended that “further assurances” be given to nurses from EU nations that they and their families will be able to remain in the UK after Brexit.

A report launched at the conclusion of the inquiry said: “In too many areas and specialties, the nursing workforce is overstretched and struggling to cope with demand… The nursing workforce needs to be expanded at scale and pace.”

Committee chair Sarah Wollaston said: "We heard a clear message about workload pressures as well as ideas about how to address these.

“We will return to this subject in a year to make sure that improvements have been made in nurse retention, working conditions, and continuing professional development."

Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This is the latest in a litany of calls for investment in the existing and future nursing workforce.

“Without action, nursing will remain on its current dangerous path. This report should make for sober reading inside the corridors of power.”

Phillippa Hentsch, head of analysis at NHS Providers, said NHS nurses were often made to work “under intolerable pressure”.

She added: “Add to these seven years of pay restraint, cuts to funding for professional development, the introduction of more stringent language testing and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit – all making it harder for trusts to recruit and keep the nurses they need.”

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said the government had made commitments to improve nurses’ pay.

But he added: “As the committee observe however, more action is needed and there is an urgent need to reverse the disinvestment we have seen in continuing professional development funding.”

In December last year, Health Education England published a consultation on a health and care workforce strategy, which was backed by the Department of Health.

Figures released by NHS Digital to the BBC earlier this month revealed the NHS is losing around 33,000 nurses each year in England, equivalent to one tenth of the total nursing workforce.

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