Report finds staff shortages responsible for nurse burnout

08 June 2021

A NEW report from the Health and Social Care Select Committee says workforce burnout across the NHS and social care in England has reached an emergency level and poses a risk to the future of both services. Only a total overhaul of workforce planning can provide a solution, say the group of MPs.

The RCN submitted oral and written evidence to the committee, stressing the link between staff shortages, nurse burnout and patient outcomes. They insisted chronic workforce shortages must be addressed urgently and demanded accountability in law for safe nurse staffing levels. 

The committee has listened to what was said about poor workforce planning being responsible for unacceptable pressure on staff and concludes that available funding, rather than demand, has been the driver behind workforce planning for many years. 

Responding to the report’s findings, RCN acting general secretary & chief executive Pat Cullen said: “The unprecedented demand on nursing staff during the pandemic has had a huge impact on their own wellbeing. But, as this report shows, the cracks in the systems designed to look after nursing staff appeared years ago.

“The Department of Health and Social Care needs to prevent more nursing staff ‘burning out’ or leaving the profession entirely by boosting recruitment and retention.

“The forthcoming Health and Social Care Integration Bill provides an important opportunity to address this by making population-based workforce assessments and overall safe staffing levels of the whole health and care system a legal duty for the Health Secretary.”

The committee’s report echoes our calls for the government to publish workforce projections for both the NHS and social care, covering the next five, 10 and 20 years, including an assessment of whether sufficient numbers of staff are being trained. 

It also recommends that the level of resources allocated to mental health support for health and care staff be maintained after the pandemic.