NHS Workforce Shortage – Part of a Wider Trend

News a couple of weeks ago that ‘Workforce shortages are a greater challenge to the NHS than funding’ - see here for one report from HSJhas prompted some experts in the field of procurement of contingency labour to say ‘we saw it coming.’ And we’re not just talking here about fewer cleaning staff, kitchen porters, drugs administrators, or catering staff in hospitals who perform very important roles, but other critical positions such as GPs, mental health staff, therapists, learning disability, community nurses, and doctors; they are all in increasingly short supply.

Amid existing worries over an already overstretched NHS, its ability to provide the required staff and services in the future, and the uncertainty over potential post-Brexit restrictions on freedom of movement, this latest announcement heralds an era of even tighter workforce supply: “New analysis from the Health Foundation, King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust finds that if current trends continue, the gap could reach almost 250,000 by 2030 … if the pattern of people leaving the workforce before pension age continues, and the pipeline of newly trained domestic and international recruits doesn’t increase, there could be a shortage of more than 350,000 staff by 2030.”

It’s not only worrying from an NHS perspective; industry experts fear this is symptomatic of a wider trend across all sectors. The amount of skilled jobs being advertised far outstrips the number of candidates, finds Edbury Daley, leading recruitment firm in sectors such as the global procurement technology market. They put it into perspective:

“This is a real concern for all of us, and one that is part of a wider trend, but also something that we've been aware of for some time, not least with the debate about the implications of leaving the EU and what that means for freedom of movement. It's widely accepted that a lot of EU citizens work in the NHS and we can ill afford to lose their skills and experience.

We also have a big issue around training for healthcare professionals that is again reflected in the wider job market, as is the concern about losing EU citizens post Brexit.

We've talked about it being an issue in the procurement profession for several years now in our Insider reports, and recent data supports the theory that it’s a similar situation in other markets.  This is reinforced by anecdotal evidence that we hear from other specialist recruiters we meet in markets like finance.”

They also alerted us to a recent report from Adzuna (search engine for job vacancies), which looks at the wider market and gives some solid indications of the shortfall. It finds generally that competition for roles is at an all-time low since Adzuna started compiling their stats in 2012. The researchers found there are currently three vacancies per jobseeker, indicating the fight for talent is going to be very fierce over the coming months.

“Competition for available roles has fallen to a whole new low, making it the third month in a row to break the record. There are now 0.36 jobseekers per vacancy across the UK.”

That report can be downloaded here.

Edbury Daley also has released its latest Insider report which looks at trends and conditions in the procurement and spend management employment market across Europe, with a focus on the interim market. The section on the future of procurement - skills, development, recruitment & retention is of particular interest in this case. You can download that here.

It’s clear that in the coming months there are key areas that procurement really needs to get ahead of in terms of thinking about workforce planning, not just in the NHS but more widely, and both in terms of procurement staff and in a sense of looking at contingent labour as a spend category.

Spend Matters took part in a webinar last week with Jaggaer and 4C Associates on Preparing for Brexit, where this, and other subjects, emerged as top concerns. Advice from the panel included thinking carefully about where the supply of workforce is coming from and be aware of how reliant your industry is on non-UK workers - construction and retail may take a big hit, for instance.  Your contingency plans will depend on the type of Brexit agreed, but that doesn’t mean wait until then!  That webinar can be listened to here.


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