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NHS shake-ups have caused staff shortages

STPs will be hard to implement without support, says survey

Repeated shake-ups and reorganisations of how the NHS operates have caused staff shortages and problems in retaining the workforce in recent years, according to a survey published today.


The survey of 2,007 NHS staff, conducted by Wilmington Healthcare found that problems with workforce could hamper the next round of imminent changes to the NHS – the introduction of Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).


Wilmington surveyed GPs, nurses, and hospital doctors across the UK and found that 64% of them already blamed staff retention problems on the continuous and “demoralising”’ national changes in NHS workforce planning since 2000.


These changes in NHS workforce planning had been the result of organisational changes such as the creation of Primary Care Trusts, Workforce Development Confederations and Strategic Health Authorities before these were replaced and CCGs were set up.


Such changes had affected staff retention, said the survey respondents, who also warned that morale in the NHS was low. Most (92%) of them blamed low morale for problems with staff retention, while 72% said poor pay and rewards were also contributory factors.


When asked how the supply of GPs could be optimised for the NHS, 72% said better integration with other health service services/integrated team working was the best way.


Other approaches suggested included the provision of financial incentives for doctors to practice in underserved areas (52% of respondents) and the promotion of innovations in health service delivery and telemedicine (49%).


Asked about what could help in the future, most respondents (85%) said access to training and development were the key requirements of the future NHS workforce, closely followed by flexible working and career progression (both 78%).


Opinion was divided on the impact of Brexit, as around half (48%) of staff said they believed it would become more difficult to recruit and retain staff as a result of the UK’s departure from the EU, while 45% said it would make no difference and 7% said it would be easier to recruit and retain staff.


Gareth Thomas, managing director of Wilmington Healthcare UK, warned that the introduction of STPs this year in England could be difficult due to staff morale and retention problems.


“Our survey shows that continued changes in workforce planning since 2000 have been a major factor in NHS staff retention problems,” said Mr Thomas.


“This is of particular concern as the planned introduction of Sustainability and Transformation Plans in April 2017 is set to bring the biggest shake-up to NHS services since the publication of the Five Year Forward View.


“As the NHS moves towards a truly devolved health and social care system, it is clear that urgent action must be taken to support staff and help them manage the huge changes that are envisaged.”


An NHS England spokesperson said: “This poll is wide of the mark and at odds with our own thorough and robust staff survey which garnered 423,000 responses.


“It found 80% of frontline NHS staff say they are able to do their job to a standard they are personally pleased with, 90% of staff say their job makes a difference for patients, and 92% of staff feel trusted to do their jobs, which does not seem to suggest a demoralised workforce.”