NHS faces 250,000 staff shortfall by 2030, warn think tanks

NHS leaders must set out plans to boost the GP workforce in the forthcoming long-term plan for the health service, the RCGP has said, as experts warned of a looming NHS staff shortage of 250,000 by 2030.

NHS facing workforce shortage (Photo: iStock.com/georgeclerk)

Not including primary care, the NHS is currently short of around 100,000 employees, according to a report by three leading think tanks.

This could rise to 250,000 by 2030 if current trends continue, or as high as 350,000 if current staff continue to leave and the NHS cannot bring in new staff from abroad, according to the King's Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation.

The three organisations warn that failing to tackle the staffing shortfall risks making the NHS long-term plan an 'unachievable wish list' - even with the promise of a £20.5bn increase in the annual health service budget by 2023.

GP workforce

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'Workforce shortages are, as this report shows, being felt right across the NHS – and general practice is no different.'

The RCGP chair pointed to the latest official workforce figures, which show that full-time equivalent GP numbers have dropped by more than 1,400 since former health secretary Jeremy Hunt promised to increase the workforce by 5,000.

Mr Hunt's successor has since abandoned the 2020/21 deadline for delivering the 5,000-GP increase, but insists the government remains committed to it.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said: 'GPs and our teams make the vast majority of NHS patient contacts and in doing so we alleviate pressures from other areas of the NHS, where care is more expensive. The long-term plan – underpinned by a coherent, properly-funded workforce strategy - must recognise and address the adverse impact workforce pressures are having on our profession and the care we are able to deliver to our patients in the community.

GP trainees

'GP trainee numbers are at an all-time high, but it takes 10 years to train a family doctor from entering medical school and efforts to bolster our workforce for today’s patients are falling short of expected targets, leading to ever-increasing waiting times, burnt out GPs, and quality of care being put under threat.'

Nuffield Trust policy director Candace Imison said: 'The NHS has a woeful track record in ensuring that the health service has the right numbers of staff it needs in all the right places.

'This has now reached a critical juncture: unless the NHS long-term plan puts in place urgent and credible measures to shore up the workforce both in the short term and in the longer term, it risks being a major failure.'

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