PURPOSE – To provide evidence to NHS Trusts in order for them to ‘shape co-ordinated recruitment and retention initiatives’[1] in the coming years following a long period of staff shortage.

OBJECTIVE – To understand increasing demand and diminishing UK supply of frontline staff in order for Trusts to be able to plan and to apply appropriate budgets in line with safe numbers of staff.

METHOD – England-wide survey gathering and analysing staff movement statistics detailing established demographic trends.


- 36% claim to have 50-100 FTE vacancies
- 8% claim from 110-250 FTE vacancies
- 45% have recruited from outside the UK from May 2013-May 2014 (96% from EEA countries, primarily: Spain, Portugal and Ireland)

These statistics have given the sector a boost in terms of wide and long-term commitments, however, Health Education England’s promise of a 9% annual staff increase over the next 5 years does not tackle the immediate and troubling situation in many hospitals across England. 


In The Newspapers

Twelve months ago The Telegraph reported high death rates in particular hospitals with a direct correlation with ‘inadequate staffing’.  Dr. Peter Carter, the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, stated: “many trusts are down to the bone in terms of the number of frontline nursing staff … cutting costs to save money”.

More recently the BBC reported a £20bn cost cutting drive facing the NHS, with an alarming 4,000 senior nursing staff lost since 2010.  In an ITV report interviewing Dr. Peter Carter, he spoke of the NHS needing to properly understand its own future needs: short, medium and long term, particularly in light of the new Safe Staffing Levels requirement of all organisations.  He said that although EU staff have been an invaluable asset to the NHS, long term overseas recruitment is simply not sustainable, nor should it be necessary.  However, he did concede that “urgent action must be taken to address the current shortfalls in the nursing workforce” thus EU recruitment in the short term is indeed vital to sustain services.

The Short- to Medium-Term Solution?

ONE: There is an ageing workforce, with many nurses due to retire over the next 5 years.  The vacancies seem unlikely to be filled by UK workers given the current trend.  Do we encourage older nurses to stay on?  If so, what incentives do we provide?

TWO: Many staff leave the NHS due to stress related to their workload.  How do we bring them back into the workforce?  What steps need to be taken to encourage their return, and then retain during good times and bad?

THREE: There is evidence of unfilled positions on wards being frozen in an attempt to save money. How do we discourage this strategy which gives a poor impression during the allocation of budgets and also potentially puts people in danger?

FOUR: How do we encourage good people to become interested in the profession from school leavers to those hoping to change careers altogether – what incentives are there to boost the popularity of the NHS?


NHS Qualified Nurse Supply and Demand Survey (2014) ‘Findings: Report produced for the Health Education Nursing Supply Steering Group’, Leeds: NHSConfed.

Nursing in Practice (2014) ‘Full extent of UK nursing shortages revealed’, [Online]. Available at: http://www.nursinginpractice.com/article/full-extent-uk-nursing-shortages-revealed (Accessed: 11 November 2014).

Jones, Catherine (2014) ‘Exclusive: Extent of NHS nursing shortage revealed’, [Online]. Available at: http://www.itv.com/news/2014-09-18/extent-of-nhs-nursing-shortage-revealed-by-itv-news-research/ (Accessed: 11 November 2014).

BBC News (2014) ‘Worrying shortage of senior NHS nurses’, [Online]. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/h1ealth-26519324 (Accessed: 12 November 2014).

[1] NHS Qualified Nurse Supply and Demand Survey (2014) p. 2