More nurses are now leaving the NHS than joining, a new report by MPs has revealed.
Members of the Commons’ health select committee say the government has paid too little attention to keeping frontline staff, meaning those who are left face ever-increasing workloads and pressures.
The report, which will be published in full on Friday, is the result of an inquiry into the nursing workforce, which found many NHS staff are struggling with poor access to continuing professional development, low pay and “a general sense of not feeling valued”.
Latest figures show more than 33,000 nurses walked away last year - a rise of 20% since 2012-13.
Committee chair Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes and a qualified doctor, said: “We met many front line nurses during the course of this inquiry.
“We heard a clear message about workload pressures as well as ideas about how to address these.
“We will return to this subject in a year to make sure that improvements have been made in nurse retention, working conditions, and continuing professional development.”
The committee wants the government to reverse cuts to nurses’ professional development budgets and establish ring-fenced funds in every hospital trust for training and support, as well as “closely monitor” the impact of the removal of nursing bursaries, which were scrapped in 2017 - prompting a huge outcry.
MPs also want Theresa May to give proper assurances to EU nationals working in the NHS that they will be able to remain in the UK with their families after Brexit.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the health select committee earlier this week he was “confident” that the Home Office would be sympathetic towards the continuing needs of the health service when examining immigration levels.
“I don’t want to talk about how this would feed into the overall numbers, but I do want to reassure the committee I am totally confident that the Home Office would be very sympathetic to any proposals made by the Department of Health and Social Care about what we will need in terms of immigration for the health and social care system,” he said.
“I know they see it as a big priority.”
Labour’s first party political broadcast of 2018 focused on the health service, with a short film documenting the daily struggles of tearful NHS workers, many of whom said there were considering leaving the profession.
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: “In the midst of the worst winter crisis on record today’s powerful message from the influential health select committee must not be shrugged off by Theresa May.
“In particular, Labour shares the committee’s concerns about removing the nursing bursaries and the government’s ongoing failure to guarantee the rights of EU healthcare staff.
“The truth is that the Prime Minister has overseen an unprecedented workforce crisis in our NHS, which has culminated in the number of nurses falling for the first time since 2013.
“You simply can’t run a world class health service that is so severely understaffed and overstretched.”