NHS staff 'desperate' for more managers to free them up to care for patients

New research with NHS staff has created a 10-point plan to solve what it calls a ‘workforce crisis’ in England.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has led discussions with NHS staff, including doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, carers and others to try and address problems caused by increasing demand on the NHS, staff sickness and low pay which are driving staff away from the health service.

The report, which is published today, reveals how an increasing workload for healthcare staff alongside a reduction in pay as a result of austerity-era policies has caused a crisis in recruitment and retention.

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Health and care workers are more likely than those in most other industries to leave work due to long-term sickness, with a rate of 7.8 per 1,000.

NHS staff want more managers to "manage" so that they can care for patientsNHS staff want more managers to "manage" so that they can care for patients
NHS staff want more managers to "manage" so that they can care for patients

The new research highlights the fact that if the number of staff leaving the health and care sector due to long-term illness had been similar to those leaving education for the same reason during the period since Covid-19, there would be an extra 14,000 additional qualified staff still employed in the NHS in England today.

Among the issues described in the consultation, which took place across 240 hours of discussions, was the need for more staff in management positions in order to allow those in care roles to focus on patients.

Doctors complained about an increased ‘burden’ of administrative duties, project management and paperwork, despite rising demand on services meaning that they have more patients to see. An increase of staffing numbers between 2010 and 2019 of one per cent is far outpaced by an increase in demand on NHS services of nearly four per cent each year.

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The report, titled ‘Finding Hope: The final report of the IPPR Health and Care Workforce Assembly’, concludes that the way of solving the current staffing crisis in caring roles is to have “the right people, in the right roles, with the right skills”.

Its 10-point action plan includes the need to recruit more managers, a ‘return to health’ scheme that matches people with long-term health conditions who would like to return to work with suitable health and social care jobs, and to introduce a ‘comply or explain’ right to flexible working in order to support women who are returning to work after maternity leave.

Chris Thomas, head of the Commission on Health and Prosperity, said: “The NHS is facing a triple threat of soaring demand, staff sickness and low pay, and NHS staff are crying out for a long-term solution, and less short-term politics.

“There is no one quick fix to solving the healthcare workforce crisis, but more managers are crucial to freeing up the time of doctors, nurses and other professionals to do the caring.

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"If nothing is done soon, demand will continue to outstrip capacity and England will only get sicker, and as a result poorer.”

Clare McNeil, associate fellow at IPPR, said: “England is prone to a healthcare workforce crisis and has often dealt with it by increasing international recruitment. However, this sticking plaster approach is no longer a viable solution as the UK becomes a less attractive place to work and a global shortage of health professionals emerges.”