the NHS workforce in numbers.

In December 2017, a draft document outlining the need for a workforce strategy across the UK and reviewing the changes across the past five years was published. ‘Facing the facts, Shaping the future’ was led by HEE (Health Education England) but was a product of the whole national system including NHS England, NHS Improvement, Public Health England, and the Department of Health. The document also looks ahead to 2027 and the requirements that the time may bring.

Why was this draft workforce strategy produced?

As explained in the document itself, “Social care and health together make up the largest workforce in the country, by comprising 13% of all jobs, yet we have not had a national strategy for recruiting, training and supporting them for over two decades.”

The aim is to now review the needs of the workforce and consider the impact of how our current and future workforce shape the future of health and social care in the country. A consultation was launched at the same time as publication to further inform the strategy and the finalised strategy will be published in July.

NHS spends almost 65% of its operational budget on staff.

There has been an increase in the number of staff employed in certain areas too. Since 2012, there are:

14,306 more adult general nurses
2,130 more mental health therapists
1,146 more community mental health nurses
1,692 more physiotherapists

Meanwhile, a few professions saw a decrease, for example:

1,674 fewer district nurses
842 fewer learning disability nurses

With the increased numbers of staffing, why does it feel like we are still struggling?

Simply put, the additional focus on quality, an ageing population and an increase in people with long-term conditions has meant that supply of staff hasn’t quite managed to meet demand of services.

The last three years has seen the government confirm an increase in clinical placement funding which they hope will lead to a 25% increase in student nurse places. In plain numbers, this could mean an extra 26,000 nurses available to be employed by 2027.

A fall in the number of vacancies in the NHS

As of December 2017, the total number of NHS vacancies for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals was almost 42,000 which means we were in a slightly better position than 2016 when we had 44,000 vacancies. The level of vacant posts also vary by region with nurse vacancy rates at 8% in the North East but 15% in London.

Whilst we are in a slightly better position than 2016 when we had 44,000 vacancies, there is room for improvement. 

Planning for the future

Changing expectations of both staff and the public have been noted in this publication as key factors to consider when planning the workforce of the future. For example, flexible working and career breaks are now seen as a right by employees rather than a ‘nice-to-have’. On the other side, the public’s expectations of the service they are provided is changing too with more and more patients doing their own research on the internet around their health issues before meeting a health professional for diagnosis. The interactions between staff and patients need to reflect the changing times and meet the rising expectations of quality.

According to the publication, more than 50% of today’s workforce will still be working in the health service in 2032. So what are we doing to focus on their development needs and ensuring that we are doing our best to retain them? 

Ian Cumming OBE, Chief Executive of Health Education England agrees and believes that “We now collectively need to increase investment in our existing workforce and prioritise what we need to achieve with that resource.”

We share this belief and to evidence it, we have a wide range of training courses that we offer to our health and social care candidates that trains them up to be able to deliver a service that you, as an employer, can be proud of. Click here to view what we offer. 
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