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Potential shortage of 140,000 nurses in NHS England by 2030

Published on 20/07/22 at 10:13am

According to new analysis, the NHS in England could face a shortfall of almost 40,000 nurses by 2024, and under a pessimistic scenario, will be faced with a shortage of 140,000 nurses by 2030/31.

It has been estimated that the health service will be short of 38,000 full-time equivalent registered nurses by 2023/2024, according to the analysis from the Health Foundation.

While the government set a target of recruiting an additional 50,000 nurses by the end of the parliament, the target failed to recognise the increase in demand for care, such as that with more complex health needs, and among the elderly.

Leading nurses have described the 2030 figure as “apocalyptic”. 

In the last year alone, almost 20,000 nurses left the health service in England, and the government target still fell short of tens of thousands to meet patient need at a pre-pandemic level of care. Further, the government target failed to consider bringing in nurses to specialities where the biggest gaps exist, including social and community care. 

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and REAL Centre, “The NHS in England appears to be on track to recruit the additional 50,000 nurses promised by the government by 2023/24, but this relies heavily on sustaining historically high levels of international recruitment, very much a ‘quick fix’ and does not replace the need to train and retain more nurses in the UK.”

Charlesworth continued: “The 50,000 target is arbitrary and not based on the number of nurses the NHS needs; nor does it ensure that nurses are recruited to the areas and types of care where the need is greatest. 50,000 extra nurses will still leave the NHS almost 40,000 short of what is needed”

Patricia Marquis, director for England at the Royal College of Nursing, also commented on the figures: “These projections show the apocalyptic impact inactivity from ministers could have on the NHS in England – a potential shortfall of 140,000 nurses would be devastating for patient care.

Ana Ovey

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