Finances and staff shortages top concerns for the NHS

Exclusive survey reveals increasing worries about the ability of the NHS to cope

  • Survey carried out as part of the UK Health Show
  • 84% of NHS employees rate the overall performance of the service as ‘good’, with 15% rating it as ‘poor ’
  • 55% expect things to get worse versus 22% who expect it to improve
  • Key challenges cited as financial pressures, staff shortages, patient and public expectations, and the integration of health and social care services

Healthcare managers and professionals registered for this year’s UK Health Show say the top challenges facing the NHS today are finances and the need for efficiency savings and staff shortages.

The survey of almost 600 registrants to the show, which takes place at Olympia London on 27 September, shows that those working for and with the NHS continue to rate the overall performance of the service as good (84%) rather than poor (15%), but a clear majority expect the NHS’ performance to deteriorate over the next few years, with 55% expecting it to get worse versus 22% who expect it to improve.

And they rate the top challenges as financial pressures (81%) and staff shortages (72%).

The show has established itself as the leading one-day event where managers and senior professionals working in and with the NHS can come together to better understand the challenges facing the NHS, learn from their peers, and meet the widest range of solution providers in one place

The findings come at the end of a summer that has seen increasing concern about where the NHS will find the workforce that it needs.

In June, The Health Foundation warned that the Brexit vote had led to a sharp drop in the number of EU nurses registering to practise in the UK. In April this year, the figure was down to 46 from 1,304 in July last year.

Professor Ian Cumming, chief executive of Health Education England, at a conference earlier this year also drew attention to the large number of staff who leave NHS early in their careers.

And he urged the NHS to focus on ‘retention, retention, retention’ to make the most of the increased numbers of staff in training.

Meanwhile, unions have been calling for an end to the NHS pay cap to improve morale within the health service.

Despite the NHS recently being rated by the Commonwealth Fund as the best healthcare system out of 11 comparator systems, those attending the UK Health Show appear less convinced – just 2% say they would describe the NHS’s performance as ‘excellent’.

The challenges facing the NHS are complex – the survey respondents also highlight ‘patient and public expectations and demands’ (57%) and the ‘integration of health and social care services’ (52%) as major sector challenges.

Alexander Rushton, UK Health Show event director, said: “The show has established itself as the leading one-day event where managers and senior professionals working in and with the NHS can come together to better understand the challenges facing the NHS, learn from their peers, and meet the widest range of solution providers in one place.

“This year the show will provide lots of opportunities for colleagues to discuss and develop ways to overcome financial, workforce and wider service integration issues – all hot topics according to our visitors.”

The show this year has four core themes around technology, cyber security, procurement and commissioning.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation and chairman of the Brexit Health Alliance, will speak at the show.

This year the show will provide lots of opportunities for colleagues to discuss and develop ways to overcome financial, workforce and wider service integration issues – all hot topics according to our visitors

Earlier this year, he argued that ‘while there is much concern within the NHS about funding [the] more-immediate and intractable obstacle to creating an effective health and care system that is fit for purpose is workforce’.

The role of technology in healthcare efficiency is also a core element of the UK Health Show and is seen as an increasingly-important opportunity by the sector.

The survey found that more than 94% believe digital transformation is important to help the NHS make its efficiency savings, and a similar proportion (87%) expect that the NHS will make more use of digital technology in the near future.

Click here for more on this year's show.

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