Brexit and staff shortages: how will 2018 play out for the NHS?

NHS Brexit in 2018

With daily headlines of record waiting times in A&Es and unprecedented numbers of nurses leaving their posts, the NHS is juggling a variety of crises.

One way or another, staff shortages are at the centre of these problems, and whether it’s justifiable or not, the spectre of Brexit is never far away. Indeed, almost every headline includes a mention of the dreaded B-word.

So what does the rest of 2018 have in store? And what can NHS Trusts do to shore up their staffing defences?

Healthcare staff numbers dwindling at worst possible time

The stat that’s shaken the industry recently revealed that 33,000 nurses left the NHS in 2016-17 – some 3,000 more than joined. It’s also been reported that the number of EU-trained ambulance staff leaving the UK is also increasing year on year.

At the same time, the so-called ‘winter crisis’, with rising flu numbers, has meant increasing demand. It doesn’t take a statistician to work out that this combination of factors is putting NHS Trusts under immense strain.

But is Brexit responsible? It’s probably fair to say that Brexit is only one of many causes of the current problems. Last year, 3985 EU nurses left the NHS, while only 2791 joined. But 3985 only accounts for just over 10% of the total number of departures.

More than half of leavers are under 40

Essentially, Brexit is exacerbating the damage of a wider and more fundamental problem: too many healthcare staff are leaving their jobs, and not enough are replacing them. And worryingly, more than half of those leaving are under 40. This is perhaps the most important stat of all.

With retirees only accounting for 20% of those leaving and EU workers only accounting for 10%, we are left with a more complex reality to grapple with: nurses are not happy in their jobs. The pressure is too much. The pay is too low. In terms of the rest of 2018, it’s hard to see this trend changing – and far easier to see it only getting worse unless big changes are made.

So what can NHS Trusts do in the face of all these challenges?

Improve recruitment, improve retention, and make the most of what you have

It’s a widely held belief that the abolishment of bursaries was a fatal blow for NHS recruitment. And research has shown the role of IELTS in limiting the number of overseas healthcare workers arriving in the UK.

As for retention, the argument probably comes back to funding. Funding directly or indirectly affects all the issues that overworked healthcare staff are facing. And funding is, as we are all well aware, not where it needs to be.

So for the immediate future, that leaves trusts with only one practical option: make better use of the existing workforce.

Legacy bank software is making the situation worse. Clarity has the answer

The current pressure to keep services up and running is unprecedented – but the pressure to keep agency spend under control hasn’t gone away. This is the key dilemma for NHS trusts – and it’s impossible to manage.

The answer to part of this problem would be to move relevant staff to your bank system. But these systems simply don’t work as they should. They’re outdated, rigid, inefficient and difficult to use. They fail to engage bank managers – and more importantly, they fail to engage candidates.

We can’t claim to have the answer to all of the huge staffing challenges trusts are facing, but we do have the answer to this one: Claritystaffbank. You can find out all about it here.

But in a nutshell, it fills vacancies faster, it matches candidates quicker, and it offers simple and real-time reporting. It also allows candidates to self-register and self-select shifts, and bank managers to arrange shifts through an incredibly simple mobile app.

Essentially, it’s easier to use, and it’s proven to increase retention – proof of which you can find in our case studies.

When problems are as serious and as varied as they are currently, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But we believe that our technology is a meaningful starting point for trusts who want to make positive changes. It won’t stop Brexit or bring back bursaries. But it can get more staff using your bank, reduce your agency reliance, and perhaps free up some much-needed cash.