Strategies to Tackle NHS Staff Shortages: Mylocum



The NHS is the biggest employer in Europe and the world’s largest employer of highly skilled healthcare professionals. Over 1.3 million people across the health service in England are devoting their working lives to caring for others. However, it is a well known fact that in the last 10 years, the NHS hasn’t had enough staff.

Due to staff shortages, working in the NHS as a nurse or healthcare professional has become increasingly stressful. The staff fails to create a good balance of work and personal time. Despite increasing demand, there is a shortage of available places for those wanting to study nursing and medicine at university.


The NHS is committed to improving the situation for its staff, as the performance of any healthcare system relies on its people. The NHS Long Term Plan addresses the staff shortage issue with the following steps:

  • International Recruitment

One of the ways the NHS is addressing the shortage of staff immediately is through recruiting internationally. This means highly-skilled people from other countries from whom it is ethical to recruit will be able to join the UK healthcare industry.

The changes to the immigration rules in 2018, which exempted all doctors and nurses from the immigration cap, have facilitated more responsive routes for recruiting staff in these professional groups. Other than this, the ‘Workforce Implementation Plan’ will explore the potential to expand the Medical Training Initiative so that more medical trainees from both developed and developing countries can spend time learning and working in the NHS.

  • More University Places, Especially For Nursing

To ensure a sustainable overall balance of the staff group, NHS is taking action to set up more training options eg. universities, online courses etc. so that the demand meets the supply. The workforce group is keen to take action on increasing the number of undergraduate nursing degrees, reducing attrition from training and improving retention, with the aim of improving the nursing vacancy rate to 5% by 2028.

The main source of new nurses is through undergraduate education and, while other routes are important, restoring growth in this route is central to the success of the Long Term Plan. 22,200 applicants were accepted into English nursing courses in 2018, a higher number than in seven of the last ten years. Even though the total number of applications fell, there were still nearly two applicants for each place offered. Another aim is to make training more accessible.

This means establishing a new online nursing degree for the NHS, linked to guaranteed placements at NHS trusts and primary care, with the aim of widening participation. The launch of this programme depends on the speed of regulatory approval.


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  • Increasing Retention Rate 

Growing the NHS workforce will partly depend on retaining the existing staff. Measures like allocating more budget and investing more money into workforce development will be taken so that staff can learn and develop their skills and progress in their career. Steps are being taken to ensure offering more flexibility to the current staff in regards to times and days in order to maintain a healthy work life balance.

Respect, equality and diversity will be central to changing the culture and will be at the heart of the workforce implementation plan. By extending this kind of support to all NHS employers, and NHS is committed to improving staff retention by at least 2% by 2025, the equivalent of 12,400 additional nurses.

To know more, visit – About the NHS Long Term Plan 

Source: NHS Long Term Plan 

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