Pin It

Staffing shortages threaten NHS more than funding cuts

With ambulance shortages leading to unnecessary deaths, three-week waits to see a GP, and over-stretched hospitals closing wards, only someone who lives in a cave with no access to the media could be unaware of the department-wide crisis that the NHS is currently experiencing.

From hospital and community-based facilities to ambulance trusts, each day brings fresh reports of chaos, mayhem and tragedy, with much of the blame for this situation being pinned on ongoing and often severe reductions in funding. Just how accurate is this picture?

Are funding cuts to blame?

It would be pointless to argue that government budgets for health are being slashed, as ever-increasing standards of service quality are expected to even qualify for a share of the remaining resources. Despite this almost comical conundrum being very real, the biggest current threat facing the NHS is less about funding cuts than it is about under-staffing.

Staff shortages: the real threat to the NHS

Across all of the NHS departments, there is a 6 per cent average clinical staffing shortage. This is what makes it difficult to provide timely and adequate treatment, meet the targets that were set, and budget. Meanwhile, the general risk to patients is rising as existing staff are stretched to the breaking point.

A realistic solution?

In the short term, it may be wiser to look at resetting targets based on what is logistically achievable with the money and staff levels that are in place now. In the future, opportunities to attract experienced practitioners back to work and train new staff will arise. In the interim, the use of a recruitment team such as will also relieve some of the staff shortage pressures.

Looking to the slightly longer-term picture, clear procedures should be put in place to avoid more severe staff shortages in the future. This might involve providing access to mental health support systems if stress is a persistent issue or investing part of the budget on compulsory staff training starting from the entry level and working up from there.

There is no doubt that the NHS is struggling to maintain the once-achievable expectations of the general public, but by addressing the root causes, such as staff shortages, it is hoped the worst crisis can be avoided.