Experts believe that shortages in nursing will continue for many years to come, and the situation could even worsen as the consequences of the decision to scrap bursaries begins to become evident.
These latest warnings follow the report on the nursing workforce compiled by the Institute for Employment Studies for the Migration Advisory Committee.
Its authors believe that a combination of factors will create a perfect storm in nursing, meaning that the health service will face massive nursing problems in the coming years.
The authors of the study assert that an ageing workforce, poor central planning by government, risks from the British exit from the European Union, and the removal of bursaries will all have a significant impact on nursing in the coming years.
In response to the predictions of the experts, a spokesman on behalf of the Department of Health suggested that retaining nurses born and bred in that United Kingdom remain a top priority of the existing government.
However, with the political system in something approaching turmoil at present, it can be said with some authority that the NHS policy of the government is not set in stone at present.
Despite the concerns of the authors and the perilous political situation in the United Kingdom, the report has already prompted the government to relax rules and grant up to 15,000 visas for nurses from outside the European single market over the next three years.
Report author Rachel Marangozov believes that Brexit could have a serious impact on the nursing profession, with some individuals who would otherwise consider entering nursing being put off by this new political context.
Meanwhile, Marangozov suggests that recruiting from other parts of the world will be insufficient to plug the gap created.
“The government needs to act now to ensure that the UK has a domestic supply of nurses to fill these future posts. This will require adequate and sustained investment in workforce planning.”
RCN general secretary Janet Davies believes that the report makes sobering reading for all those concerned about nursing in the NHS, and suggests that the government should pay extremely close attention to the opinions of its authors.
“This report makes sobering reading and it is clear that without urgent action the UK is heading for a major nursing shortage. Thanks to years of short-term thinking, the UK is completely unprepared to deal with the challenges posed by an ageing workforce, increasing demand and now the uncertainty caused by leaving the EU.”
Nonetheless, a spokesman for the Department of Health was keen to point out that there are 11,000 more nurses on NHS than back in 2010, while the number in training is increasing concurrently.
“As the Health Secretary has already said, EU workers are a crucial part of our NHS and the training and retention of home-grown nurses is a top priority for this government.”