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  • In April 2017, the House of Lords Select Committee on the Long-Term Sustainability of the NHS concluded that the biggest internal threat to the sustainability of the NHS is the lack of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the NHS and care system the workforce it needs.
  • This briefing, and its two supplements, examines two of the most important issues in workforce policy today which pose both immediate and long-term risks to the ability of the NHS to sustain high quality care: staffing numbers and standards and the future of NHS pay policy.
  • It highlights that the lack of a coherent workforce strategy which is integrated with funding plans and service delivery models is one of the Achilles heels of the NHS.

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Key points:

  • Nursing staff numbers are insufficient – and this shortfall is likely to be exacerbated by poor workforce planning.
  • Given the pressure on numbers, ensuring that nurses are deployed effectively to support safe and efficient delivery of care is vital.
  • Most NHS staff will have had a pay cut since 2010/11 and current public sector pay policy implies they will face further pay cuts in the coming years.
  • The NHS needs a pay policy that will enable it to recruit, retain and engage the workforce it needs to succeed.
  • Agenda for Change staff at Band 5 and above – which represents 625,000 people and includes all nurses - will face a 12% pay cut between 2010/11 and 2020/21, after accounting for inflation.
  • Workforce planning is essential to ensuring productivity and requires a clear and coordinated workforce strategy.
  • Piecemeal policy making, however well-intentioned any individual initiative might be, is not serving the NHS well.

Further reading

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