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Royal London Hospital
October 16, 2018

UK Patient Care is Being Impacted by a Shortage of Nurses

Across the United Kingdom and the European Union, healthcare is taking a hit – and not because nurses and medical staff are not properly trained. Instead, healthcare staff is in short supply, and there are simply not enough nurses to handle the aging population around the world.

England has expanded the number of doctors by 20% in the past decade, but nurses have remained under-produced.

The UK government is not incentivising nursing students with bursary any longer. Students had an incentive to enter a nursing career, but with the removal of the bursary, there has been a 23% drop in nursing degree applicants. Student nurses leave their schooling with fees and debt that needs to be paid.

Pay has been capped for the past five years, leaving many would-be nurses looking for a new career path to follow.

There’s also the impact of Brexit on the UK’s nursing industry. The number of EU nurses entering the country to practice nursing has dropped by 89% because nurses don’t want to have a job one day and then be complicated by Brexit negotiations.

Aging nurses are another issue, with more nurses leaving the system than entering it. The result is a gap in nursing that is leaving patients with subpar care for their needs. Nurses are working hours that leave them at the hospital more than at home. Nurses work for 12 hours with no breaks, and there are extra unpaid hours that are being worked, too.

It’s a workload that many nurses do not view as reasonable or viable with a cap on pay.

Patient deaths are on the rise, and it’s being attributed to a lack of proper nursing staffing. The government is choosing to save money and reduce staff at the risk of many patients dying in the process.

The European Union is having the same issue, with Germany being a prime example. One account of nurses being recruited from Africa cites a changing trend: men entering the nursing field. Many nurses dream of wearing men’s scrub sets, helping others and saving lives, but in many African countries, they’re criticized for their choice to become nurses.

So, these individuals are opting to go overseas, often to the EU to pursue their careers.

Future employers are often willing to pay for foreigner’s schooling if they agree to work for the company in the healthcare industry. Contracts are signed that require the student to work for the employer, in Germany’s case, the Bavarian Red Cross.

Germany’s government notes that the average time it takes to fill a geriatric nursing position in the country is 171 days – the worst for all professionals in the country. The number of people living longer is on the rise, and the country needs to be able to fill these nursing positions faster if they expect to meet the demands of the growing population.

Substantial investments in nurses are being made in Germany, and it’s a trend that we’re not seeing in the UK, which is starting to reduce the incentive to become a nurse.

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