Published on 31st January 2024 by Dr. Cynthia Bodea MSc Public Health
Amidst the thick fog of our healthcare systems, the NHS stands as a beacon of light, dedicated to providing quality and affordable care. However, the storm of staff shortages has cast a shadow over this light. In this blog post we embark on a journey to understand the complexities of NHS staff shortages and shed some light on potential navigational strategies.
The underlying cause of these staff shortages are multifaceted as budget constraints, burnout, and increasing demands for these services all contribute to the scarcity of healthcare professionals. The NHS is still reeling from the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic where pre-pandemic shortages of approximately 43,000 nurses were further exacerbated by the increased demand for health services — resulting in the loss of staff due to stress/burnout (1).
Additionally, increasing workload without subsequent compensation has led to disgruntled workers, as Junior Doctors and Consultant, Nurses, Paramedic and non-clinical staffs have had to pick up sign boards and march in the streets to demand fair wages (2). Behind these strikes are humans, healthcare professionals and the heartbeat of the NHS bearing with long hours and little support and compensation, taking an emotional toll.
In response to this the NHS has recently released the plan for 2023/24 with the top priority being to recover the core services and productivity, with emphasises on improving emergency response, reducing long waits, and making primary care more accessible (3). It has also been confirmed by the NHS recruitment and training body the commencement of the Medical Doctor Apprenticeship by September 2024, in a bid to encourage students become health professionals, the apprenticeships are a part of the NHS England long term workforce plan, which has been put in place to train and retain talent to boost their workforce (4). These are long term plans which require proper planning and adequate funding.
In the meantime, what can we do to alleviate even a modicum of stress from these professionals?
As the NHS does its best to address staff shortages, a quick, holistic, and cost-effective approach is crucial. Recognising the impact of call handling and administrative burdens on staff whilst exploring outsourced solutions, will contribute to building a more resilient and sustainable system.
By leveraging external expertise for call handling and diary management services such as appointment booking, the NHS will benefit from agents having proficient knowledge on both EMIS and systmOne clinical systems. This will eliminate long call waiting times and speed up the care process, allowing healthcare professionals to focus on delivering high quality in-person care.
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1 FLEMING, T., & SOPHISTER, S. ANALYSIS OF THE NHS STAFFING CRISIS.
2 Strike calendar, (2024). https://www.strikecalendar.co.uk/
3 NHS England, (2023). https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/PRN00021-23-24-priorities-and-operational-planning-guidance-v1.1.pdf
4 GOV.UK, (2023). https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2023/06/30/nhs-doctor-apprenticeships-everything-you-need-to-know/