Saturday, December 2, 2023

Letter to Editor: The crisis over staff shortages in NHS

Dear Editor,

YOUR readers will be aware of the well-documented pressures currently being experienced in health services both locally and nationally.  

Our members, providing frontline nursing care to patients under extremely challenging circumstances, are exhausted. They are aiming, as always, to provide the highest standards of safe and effective care at a time of high demand and staffing shortages. 

It would be easy to blame the current staffing pressures on the COVID-19 pandemic – a combination of more patients needing COVID treatment and rising staff sickness levels due to illness and isolation. This is certainly where the government would like to pin the blame. 

The reality is that the current problems have been a long time in the making. For more than a decade the Royal College of Nursing has been warning that the NHS and wider health and care system is so short of nursing staff that patients do not always receive the safe and high standard of care they expect. 

Factors such as a loss of nurses from EU countries, changes to nursing student finance in 2016, a failure to award staff a fair pay rise and the continued lack of a coherent workforce plan that addresses how to retain experienced nurses as well as recruit new ones have all contributed to the extraordinary circumstances our members are now working under. 

While we all hope the pressures piled on by COVID-19 will soon start to subside again, the underlying workforce shortages, declining morale and unsustainable pressures will remain. In fact they are driving nursing staff to seriously consider leaving the job they love. It is now imperative that our political leaders act on the concerns raised by the RCN, our members and others working in health services. 

Nursing staff don’t go into the profession to deliver care that they know is below the standard they want to provide and that patients and their families rightly expect, but they need the proper resources to deliver a high standard of care.  

Please contact your MP and support us as we continue to promote the importance of safe staffing across the whole health and care system. 


Natalie Brooks (Registered Nurse)

Board Chair

RCN Eastern 

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