Nursing shortages require urgent action Health Foundation response to the publication of the Institute for Fiscal Studies report, Cost of Living and the Impact on Nursing Labour in NHS Acute Trusts

24 February 2021

Responding to the publication of the Institute for Fiscal Studies report, Cost of Living and the Impact on Nursing Labour in NHS Acute Trusts, Professor James Buchan, senior visiting fellow at the Health Foundation, said:

‘The nursing workforce in England is under incredible strain. Over 35,000 nursing posts are vacant and sickness absence rates are high as a result of COVID, with one in 10 hospital nurses reported to be off work in January. This report provides further evidence that the government needs to urgently develop a comprehensive national workforce plan that enables the NHS to recruit and retain nurses where they are needed most.

‘Health Foundation analysis shows that while overall NHS nursing numbers have increased recently, there is significant regional variation in vacancy levels. Furthermore, in some clinical areas there are fewer nurses than there were 10 years ago, in particular in mental health and learning disability services and community nursing. This is hugely concerning as we are now in a situation where the number of people waiting for routine procedures exceeds 4 million and there is growing demand for mental health services, with mental health nursing accounting for a quarter of nursing vacancies.

‘As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, the government must care for those who have cared for us. For nurses, this means ensuring they have attractive pay, career structures and conditions, and flexible approaches to training, development and working life. The NHS’s recovery efforts depend on addressing critical nursing shortages.’

Media contact

Creina Lilburne 
07941 156 827

Further reading


Building the NHS nursing workforce in England

December 2020

The current shortfall of nurses represents a major long-term and growing problem for the NHS. This...

REAL Centre


Nurse supply model


This project aims to enable projections of the future nursing workforce supply in England under...

REAL Centre

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