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Staff shortages more of a threat to NHS services than financial constraints


10 January 2017

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Workforce shortages are more of a threat to NHS services than financial pressures, a leading health think tank has said.

Workforce shortages are more of a threat to NHS services than financial pressures, a leading health think tank has said.

In written evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Long-Term Sustainability of the NHS, Candace Imison, director of policy at the Nuffield Trust, said “serious and growing gaps” in NHS staff will “threaten the quality of care”.

Imison added that staff pressures are undermining the delivery of new models of care as shortages are the worst in areas where vanguards require workforce expansion.

She said that, while NHS leaders have invested in workforce training, little has been spent on “skills and capacity to plan develop and manage” staff.

To solve this problem, Imison suggested improving workforce planning to make it more flexible, opting for solutions to medium term issues over “long term predictive precision”.

Imison also said making better use of technology to support flexible working and increase productivity would give considerable benefits.

In her evidence the think tank director mapped out two potential futures: “technology heaven”, in which digital innovations build a more efficient NHS, and “technology hell” wherein clinicians are tied to computers and patients are “overburdened” with self-care.

However, Imison acknowledged any solution to staff shortages are hindered by financial pressures on the NHS.

The select committee, chaired by Lord Patel, is investigating the sustainability of the NHS over the next 15 to 20 years and has spoken to, among others, the Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers as well as the health secretary.

The committee is due to report back to the House of Lords by 31 March 2017.

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