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The Health Foundation has warned that the NHS's shrinking workforce is putting its long term plan at risk of failure.
The research, entitled A critical moment: NHS staffing trends, retention and attrition, is the Health Foundation's annual assessment of the profile and trends in NHS staffing in England. It shows "an ongoing deterioration for some key staff groups". The report states:
• While there has been continued growth in the number of hospital-based doctors, the number of GPs has fallen.
• Despite substantial rises in activity pressures, the FTE number of registered nurses and health visitors employed in the NHS in England grew by just under 0.5% (1,300 FTE) between July 2017 and July 2018.
• Although the overall number of nurses employed in the NHS has increased slightly, there are particular problems in key priority areas such as primary care and learning disabilities. The number of nurses and health visitors working in community health services has continued its long-term decline, falling 1.2% (538 FTE), driven by a fall in the number of health visitors negating a small rise in the number of other nurses working in community services. The numbers in mental health nursing increased by less than 0.5% (172 FTE) over the year to July 2018.
• International recruitment will remain vital to achieving the overall staffing numbers needed, but it is currently being constrained by broader migration policies and by the uncertainties of Brexit
• To address nursing shortages, the government has committed to increasing the number of nurses in training. However, 2018 was the second year in a row in which the number of applications and acceptances for pre-registration nursing degrees
in England fell.
The report, authored by James Buchan, Anita Charlesworth, Ben Gershlick and Ian Seccombe, highlights that a "lack of coherent policy that takes into account both funding and staffing has been a recurring theme, the effect of which has been to undermine any long-term consistency in the NHS’s approach to workforce policy and planning."
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