UK facing a nursing crisis – with work strain and wages to blame

The UK is on the edge of a nursing crisis, with the number of new health care professionals lagging behind an ageing population.

According to analysis from the International Longevity Centre – UK the number of nurses rose by a pitiful 0.8 per cent between 2009 and 2017, while the number of people aged over-65 rose by 17.6 per cent over the same period.

The number of nurses per 1,000 of the population has fallen considerably from its peak of 10.2 in 2005, to just under 8 in 2015. In contrast, other major economies such as the USA, Germany and France have all seen the number of nurses relative to the population rise.

Between July and September 2017, over 34,000 nursing vacancies for full time jobs in England were posted (up 3,000 on the same time last year), amounting to almost 40 per cent of overall vacancies (across the labour market as whole) advertised.

Furthermore, the number of nurses leaving the NHS is beginning to exceed the number joining.

The growing number of those leaving the NHS does not simply reflect an ageing workforce either. Over 33,000 nurses left the NHS in 2016-17, with almost a third between the ages of 25-34. The proportion of those between the ages of 25-29 who are leaving is noticeably higher than what it was in 2012.

An estimated 7 per cent of nurses in the NHS are EU nationals, yet more and more are leaving the NHS.

In 2016, only 12 per cent of new nurses joining the NHS were from the EU. The year before this figure was 19 per cent.

Furthermore, in 2016, 11 per cent of the nurses leaving the NHS were from the EU. This is likely to pose a concern for the nursing workforce as a whole and in particular London, where an average of 11 per cent of NHS staff are from the EU, significantly higher than other areas of the country.

Dean Hochlaf, Assistant Economist, ILC-UK said: “The combination of work strain, wages, training costs, available placements and uncertainty for migrant workers is hampering the ability of the NHS to train and retain nursing staff.

“The escalating issue of nursing shortages has numerous causes, some of which the government has identified and are addressing, but there remain many areas where improvements must be made, through implementing policies to incentivise, reward and invest in those who play such an integral role on the frontlines of the NHS.”


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