Tackling the growing NHS staffing crisis is ranked as a key priority for the next government by 94% of hospital chief executives and chairs, with more than half putting the issue as number one on their list, according to a new survey by the NHS Confederation.

More than nine out of ten senior managers (91%) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement ‘understaffing across the NHS is putting patient safety and care at risk.


The NHS Confed repeats widely-shared estimates that there are more than 100,000 FTE vacancies in England in hospital and community services alone, and emphasises that the problem has been mounting over the past five years:

“In every month from 2014 to 2019 most hospitals were only able to fill their shifts using temporary and agency staff. This shortage is particularly pronounced in mental health and learning disabilities services, which have a disproportionately high number of vacancies.”

The report also points to a slightly larger number of vacancies in social care, with around 122,000 vacancies: “around one in ten social worker roles and one in 11 care worker roles vacant.”

The Confed warns that a no-deal Brexit poses risks when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff for the NHS and social care. 65,000 NHS staff, over 5% of the workforce in the English NHS, are EU nationals. And there is a warning as Tory ministers prepare to charge for visas and access to the NHS for future staff from EU countries after Brexit:

“Given the current shortfalls, it will be vital to enable and encourage overseas staff who want to come to work here and make sure they have the means to do so easily and with confidence about their future status.

“Whatever happens with Brexit, future immigration policy must take into account the staffing needs of both the health and care systems.”

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