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NHS nursing workforce


Despite a range of actions to resolve the long term issue of workforce shortages in nursing, including tackling worsening retention rates, problems have persisted.  

The NHS Long Term Plan signalled the need for an increase in the number of nurses, and in December 2019 the government confirmed its pledge of 50,000 more NHS nurses by 2024. It also announced the reintroduction of maintenance grants for nursing students from September 2020. 

The NAO’s report ‘NHS nursing workforce’ sets out the scale of the NHS nursing workforce challenge, and the challenges that any future plan must address. 

The report finds that despite overall increases in the numbers of nurses over the last 10 years, the NHS does not have the nurses it needs: it now has around 40,000 nursing vacancies, or 12% of posts.  

It also finds that the NHS Long Term Plan acknowledged that “the biggest shortfall [is] in nursing” - but did not include any detailed plans on what nursing workforce was needed to deliver on its ambitions.  

Planning to secure the workforce needed to meet the Long Term Plan commitments has been delayed, with the plan originally promised in 2019 now scheduled for Spring 2020. 

The Committee will question officials from the Department for Health and Social Care, NHS England and Improvement, and Health Education England, on what action is now being taken to address these long term problems in the NHS nursing workforce,  and what impact the Covid-19 pandemic has on current and future plans.  

If you have evidence on the issues raised in this inquiry please submit it here by 5.30pm Thursday 16 July 2020.

Reports, special reports and government responses

View all reports and responses
Eighteenth Report - NHS nursing workforce
Inquiry NHS nursing workforce
Committees Public Accounts Committee
HC 408
Response to this report
Treasury minutes: Government response to the Committee of Public Accounts on the Eighteenth report from Session 2019-21
Government Response

Oral evidence transcripts

View all oral evidence transcripts
20 July 2020
Inquiry NHS nursing workforce
Committees Public Accounts Committee
Oral Evidence
NWF0001 - NHS nursing workforce
Witnesses Council of Deans of Health
Committees Public Accounts Committee
Written Evidence
NWF0002 - NHS nursing workforce
Witnesses The King's Fund
Committees Public Accounts Committee
Written Evidence
NWF0003 - NHS nursing workforce
Witnesses UNISON
Committees Public Accounts Committee
Written Evidence

Contact us

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  • Phone: 020 7219 3273 (General enquiries). For all media inquiries please contact Jessica Bridges Palmer / 07917488489
  • Address: Public Accounts Committee, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA