England needs one million more NHS and social care staff over the next decade

A new analysis by the Health Foundation reveals the growing workforce gap in England with an extra 488,000 NHS staff needed to meet rising demand and the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. This would represent a 40 per cent increase in the workforce – double the level of growth seen over the past 10 years.

England needs more than one million extra health and care staff over the next decade if the NHS and social care is to meet the rising level of patient need.

In social care the need is even greater with 627,000 more staff needed. This would be a 55 per cent rise over the next decade and four times more than the level of growth since 2001.

Between June 2011 and June 2021 the NHS grew its workforce by 20 per cent, but the rate of growth slowed in the five years from June 2016 to June 2021 to just 16 per cent.

The Health Foundation said in order to deliver this level of staff funding for the NHS alone would need to grow at twice the rate of the last decade and reach at least 3.2 per cent a year – the equivalent of an extra £70 billion by 2030/31.

Anita Charlesworth, the Health Foundation’s director of research said a fully funded workforce plan should be the top priority for chancellor Rishi Sunak in his autumn spending review.

She said: “If the government doesn’t take action now to invest in the workforce the NHS and social care system are likely to face a decade of increasing staff shortages. A total of 5.6 million people are already waiting for care and the health service desperately needs more staff.

“Workforce shortages are the biggest risk to the post pandemic recovery. Despite the more immediate challenges posed by Covid-19, the government must not lose sight of the underlying demand and cost pressures facing the NHS and social care over the long term and the need to plan better to increase the workforce to meet this demand.

“The money needed to meet pressures in health and social care will need to rise significantly beyond the current settlement, and at an even faster rate in social care. This means the government faces a major balancing act of priorities in the coming decade.”

Public spending on health care in the UK totalled £177 billion in 2019, equivalent to £2,647 per person for the year. This is less than the average for the 14 major EU nations and significantly less than the G7 average.

The NHS has almost 100,000 vacancies for staff with 112,000 vacancies in social care. This includes 9,691 vacancies for doctors and almost 39,000 vacancies for nurses.

On top of extra staff the NHS will also need sufficient equipment, beds and technology to cope with the rising number of patients driven by the ageing society, deteriorations in health and the backlog of care caused by Covid-19.

To clear the Covid-19 backlog and deliver on the NHS 18-week waiting time standard by March 2025 the NHS would need an extra 4,400 consultants and 18,000 more nurses. This is on top of the existing vacancies.

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