• This project aims to enable projections of the future nursing workforce supply in England under alternative policy scenarios over a 10 to 20-year timeframe.
  • The project will take a whole system approach, accounting for what drives nurses' decisions, and the model will be produced with stakeholder input.
  • Once completed, this project will enable the REAL Centre to publish evidence-based estimates of the future supply of nurses, to identify where shortages are likely to be most pressing and to assess the implications of different policies to fill those gaps.
  • The model is being developed by Decision Analysis Services Ltd (DAS), an independent management consultancy with expertise in simulation, systems thinking, programme management, investment modelling and data analytics.
  • This project is due for completion in August 2021. The REAL Centre will be responsible for further development of the model. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, workforce issues were identified as the single biggest challenge for health and social care in England. Nurses currently make up a quarter of all NHS staff and half of clinical staff. Nursing has long been the key NHS shortage area and accounted for 45% of full-time equivalent vacancies in the NHS in England in June 2020.

One of the main reasons for the shortages in nursing, and in the NHS as a whole, has been a lack of long-term planning around staffing levels and a ‘boom-and-bust’ approach linked to funding. Most existing models take a simple and relatively crude ‘stock-and-flow’ approach to workforce modelling by simply applying joiner and leaver rate data to current staff numbers and extrapolating into the future. The lack of high quality, robust, and transparent projections of workforce supply and demand is a major factor underlying the lack of a coordinated workforce strategy. This is partly due to a lack of capacity and capability at both national and local levels, exacerbated by reorganisations of the system architecture.

The REAL Centre has commissioned DAS to develop a comprehensive new nurse supply model rooted in system dynamics, which can be used to provide better informed projections of nurse numbers under alternative policy scenarios over a 10 to 20-year timeframe. The model will consider nurses working across multiple regions and sectors.

The model will yield projections of nurse supply that will promote longer-term thinking and support better decision-making around the nursing workforce. This will be a vital contribution to the evidence base and the wider debate on this key workforce issue.

Find out more

Working paper

Nurse supply model: progress so far

December 2020
Working paper

The Health Foundation's REAL Centre commissioned DAS to produce a model that can be used to develop...

REAL Centre

Blog

Addressing the nursing shortfall

13 December 2020
Blog

Nihar Shembavnekar introduces the REAL Centre's nurse supply model, and explains why we hope it will...

REAL Centre

REAL Centre contact

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Nihar Shembavnekar

Economist

Nihar Shembavnekar joined the Health Foundation in Febr...

Further reading

Chart

Thinking local and global: exploring the UK’s reliance on international nurses and the impact of COVID-19

Chart

The unprecedented pressures caused by COVID-19 have highlighted the central importance of registered...

Report

Building the NHS nursing workforce in England

December 2020
Report

The current shortfall of nurses represents a major long-term and growing problem for the NHS. This...

REAL Centre

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REAL Centre

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The Health Foundation’s REAL Centre is here to support better long-term decision making in health...

REAL Centre

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