Posted on 13/09/2018 by David Burgess
A shortage of UK nurses, lack of government funding and a winter crisis have put unprecedented levels of pressure on the NHS, with 24 trusts recently declaring a 'black alert', new research has found.
Specialist business property adviser, Christie & Co, has published its fourth annual report on adult social care and found ‘critical issues’ surrounding funding and current nurse vacancies.
Michael Hodges, head of consultancy – care at Christie & Co said: “The pressures placed on the healthcare system by the winter of 2017 and the increasing age of the UK population illustrate the need for additional capacity, which can only be met by a comprehensive suite of policies associated with the key themes identified by our research.
“As we await the Government Green paper, our 2018 research shows that once again the most critical issues revolve around funding and workforce related themes with further complications related to uncertainty connected with Brexit.”
Shortage of nurses exacerbated by Brexit
The report, ‘Adult Social Care 2018: Funding, Staffing and the Winter Crisis’, gathered surveys from local authorities and over 200 leading operators across elderly and specialist care in the UK, looking at the use of agency staff, costs and fees, and how the Government’s additional funding has been utilised.
It found the ability to train and retain UK nurses remains a key issue in social care, with a 13 per cent drop in total nurse registrations.
While favourable immigration policies and overseas nurses are key in bridging the current gap, the uncertainty over Brexit has also had a substantial impact on EU nurse registrations which has fallen by 87 per cent since 2016.
Similarly, one in four student nurses are not completing their nursing degrees, leaving 40,000 vacant nursing posts – with many of these filled by expensive agency nurses.
Of 16,544 nursing students who were meant to finish their three-year degrees in 2017, more than 4,000 quit or suspended their studies.
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), says failing to recruit more nurses puts patients at an ‘increased risk’, adding: “With 40,000 nurse vacancies in England alone, we cannot sit back and watch applications fall year on year.
“We urgently need financial incentives to attract more students into the profession, and nursing students must be encouraged and supported.”
Struggling hospitals declare ‘black alert’
According to the report, the winter of 2017/2018 was particularly challenging for the NHS with huge demands being placed on the service.
Hospitals across the UK were forced to take unusual steps in order to manage a surge in demand for care. This included cancelling cancer operations, treating adults in children’s wards and closing a birthing centre to help cope with a sudden influx of patients who needed to be admitted for treatment.
The report found that at least 24 trusts declared ‘Code Black’ and were in areas with the highest levels of delayed discharges and a high density of people aged 65 years or above.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has warned that the already chaotic situation in the NHS could get even worse as the winter weather worsens.
Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency medicine, previously said: “Emergency departments are overflowing with patients, internal major incidents are being declared around the country and staff in emergency departments are struggling to cope with the immense demand being placed on their services.
“These crowded environments are stretching the clinical workforce to their limits and, more importantly, at times are unsafe for patients.”
He urged ministers and NHS leaders to draw up an urgent action plan to avoid the quality of care patients receive starting to deteriorate.
He added: “Without dedicated funding and planning, both patients and staff will increasingly suffer.”