Latest figures from Labour suggest that in the past four years alone, the NHS has lost more than 4,400 senior nurses and matrons. As a result this has led to concerns that hospitals and hospital staff may be lacking the level of experience and knowledge to cope with pressures of the job and unprecedented levels of demand – especially as winter approaches.
The Independent reveals that the combination of an ageing workforce nearing retirement and cuts to funding has impacted staffing figures. Anger and resentment over pay freezes along with increased job stress have also discouraged many from either returning to the profession or staying it in, adding to declining numbers.
The loss of more experienced workers risks producing a skills gap when hospitals are required to cope with more admissions than ever before and could significantly affect the standards of care people receive while in hospital. The last week in November saw 110,601 people admitted to hospital in an emergency, the highest number ever recorded in a single week. The Mirror also reports falling nursing numbers, with many choosing to leave the profession signalling concerns that this could see hospitals closing their doors to patients over Christmas.
Even with the additional funding for the NHS announced by George Osborne and examined in last week’s blog, this will not tackle all the problems the NHS faces. Ways in which the burden placed on the NHS could be reduced needs to be considered. Previous Prestige Nursing + Care blogs have highlighted just some of the benefits that alternative solutions for the elderly, disabled or those in need of any support, such as home care and community care can provide, while greater levels of support and funding for family carers would also be effective.
Some statistics suggest that the social care sector needs to recruit an additional 1 million people by 2025 to satisfy demand. It is therefore clear that something needs to be done to address the recruitment and retention challenges the industry faces. A recent survey found that health and social care was the most fulfilling to work in, yet this is not translating into recruitment. Many issues need to be challenged including poor pay (and pay freezes), cuts to funding and greater appreciation of the valuable work people in this sector do. Only by combining increased recruitment efforts with alternative options to hospital for those who need support or help will pressures on the NHS be reduced.