NHS are ‘desperate’ for staff
Unfair pay cuts and an ever-increasing workload has led to a progressively worrying hole in the NHS. There were 133,660 vacant posts for nurses and midwives advertised in 2017, with these figures allegedly being underestimated. There are reportedly not enough nurses to provide safe care for patients, leading to basic care being compromised and duties being prioritised. 79% of nurses feel their workplaces are too short-staffed to give patients the standard of care they require, and a warning has been issued that radical action is needed over the next decade to ensure the NHS can cope with the growing burden of illness.
Controversially, the NHS have plugged the gap with healthcare assistants and agency nurses. Some hospitals lost almost the exact same number of nurses as they hired healthcare assistants. Almost one in three care roles in the NHS are now filled by a healthcare assistant. Due to being less highly trained, healthcare assistants are a lot cheaper to employ and there is therefore concern that patient health is being compromised in an attempt to reduce costs. Furthermore, the youngest doctors in the hospital are given dangerous levels of responsibility, with one newly qualified doctor being responsible for 400 patients. Approximately 8% of vacant shifts go unfilled, increasing the pressure on existing staff and potentially impacting on the quality of care.
To add to the crisis, the Government have made cuts to the bursaries given to students applying for health degrees, causing applications to fall by 19% in recent years. The Government claim this will free up £800 million per year, however this is likely to deter students training in the industry rather than encouraging them, which is needed to help overcome this emergency. Furthermore, the Government’s chaotic handling of Brexit has put off increasing numbers of desperately needed medical staff coming to the UK, which would considerably ease the pressure. The widespread and growing nursing shortages now risk becoming a national emergency and there has been criticism that this has been exacerbated by the impact of Brexit.
With another cold winter fast approaching, the Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS acute trust in North-East London has asked the Department of Health and Social Care if it can borrow approximately £100m to help it get through 2018-19.