Wednesday 27 March 2019 / 12:01 AM Health / Jonathan Ashworth

Labour reveals over 200,000 nurses have quit the NHS since 2010 as party commits £330 million for staff training and development to tackle retention crisis

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, will today warn that Government failure to meet NHS constitutional standards on staffing is driving a retention crisis.

It comes as new research by Labour into the NHS workforce crisis reveals that over 200,000 nurses have left the NHS since 2010/11, alongside a 55% increase in voluntary resignations from the NHS.

New research, verified by the House of Commons Library, revealed today shows:

  • Voluntary resignations citing poor work-life balance have increased more than any other reason – by 169% between 2011/12 (6,699) and 2017/18 (18,013).
  • The number of voluntary resignations for reasons of health has doubled (99%) – from 2,126 resignations in 2011/12 to 4,234 in 2017/18.
  • The percentage of ambulance staff leaving the NHS has increased by 3.3%, from 4.8% in 2011/12 to 8.1% in 2017/18.
  • The average annual change in hospital and community staff has been just 0.8% since 2009/10 – substantially below the 2.9% achieved by the last Labour Government.

Labour’s research is being released in anticipation of Baroness Dido Harding publishing a Workforce Implementation Plan for the NHS.

In a speech this morning at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank, Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, will commit Labour to investing in staff and training to help solve the workforce retention crisis, which has culminated in over 100,000 staff vacancies across the NHS.

After years of Tory cuts, the budget for Continuing Professional Development for staff has been reduced to a third of its 2014/15 value, with just £84m dedicated to workforce development in 2018/19.

Meanwhile, the abolition of the bursary for nurses and midwives saw applications for nursing courses fall by one third in the two years after March 2016.

Ashworth will argue the Government is failing in its duties to staff enshrined in the NHS Constitution which are supposed to guarantee the rights to:

  • Having a good working environment with flexible working opportunities, consistent with the needs of patients and with the way that people live their lives
  • Having healthy and safe working conditions and an environment free from harassment, bullying or violence
  • Being treated fairly, equally and free from discrimination

Failure to meet these standards is driving the staff retention crisis we see today.

As part of its guarantee to deliver Constitutional standards for the NHS workforce, Labour is today committing to:

  • Restoring Continuing Professional Development Budgets to 2013/14 levels – an investment of approximately £330 million in 2023/24.
  • Re-introducing nurse bursaries and reinstating funding for health related degrees to ensure those wanting to get into health professions are not put off by financial considerations.
  • Guarantee training and reskilling for staff impacted by the coming wave of automation, AI, robotics and digitisation.
  • Ongoing investment in pay and reward that goes beyond merely breaking the pay cap including staff that have been privatised.
  • Putting in place a national Staff Wellbeing Strategy to support all staff including the creation of board level NHS Workforce Wellbeing Guardians in every local, regional and national NHS organisation.
  • Legislating for safe staffing levels across the NHS.
  • Endorsing the Fight Fatigue Campaign by the Association of Anaesthetists and the BMA’s Fatigue and Facilities Charter to deliver adequate rest facilities for NHS staff and help change cultural attitudes towards rest in hospitals, backed up by capital investment where necessary.
  • Support the roll-out of an e-rostering scheme as pioneered at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton which has led to less reliance on junior doctor locums and rising quality of care.
  • Expanding access to training through Further Education, demanding the government urgently reform and properly resource the apprenticeship levy in the NHS. And ensuring trusts, GP networks and area health footprints work together to create a schools work experience bureau service to inspire and encourage the next generation of health and care professionals.
  • To end the uncertainty and red tape afflicting international recruitment Labour will provide work visas to anyone who has a job offer in the NHS at whatever level, and expand the Medical Training Initiative for all those wishing to take up the opportunity.

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, is expected to say:

“It’s utterly staggering that our NHS has lost over 200,000 nurses under the Tories and that voluntary resignations from the NHS is up 55 per cent.

“We are facing a retention crisis in our NHS and standards which staff should expect – enshrined in the NHS Constitution – have simply been abandoned.

“After years of pay restraint, cuts to training budgets and growing pressures it is no wonder the NHS is facing chronic shortages of 100,000 staff. These shortages affect patient care every day as waiting lists grow and operations are cancelled.

“A Labour government will invest in NHS staff and help staff develop to meet the challenges of the future. It’s my ambition that the NHS becomes the best employer in the world. It’s not only the correct thing to do to improve the quality of care of patients, it’s in our economic interest as well.”