What needs to be done to address staffing shortages in health and social care?

Our new article in the British Journal of General Practice discusses the importance England’s NHS having an effective workforce strategy. Staffing shortages in health and social care are limiting the delivery of services. Interventions to improve the recruitment and retention of staff, along with also improving staff wellbeing, are essential.

Health and social care organisations must invest in understanding what works to recruit and retain staff, and, in the case of general practice, in patient- facing roles. NHS Employers suggests target areas for focus for employing organisations, such as encouraging flexibility and supporting new starters; however, there is a lack of evidence on what is proven to keep people in post, recently highlighted by the Royal College of Anaesthetists concerned about staffing levels within their own specialty.

Financial incentives including pay, taxation, and pensions must be optimised but do not exonerate the need to optimise working conditions. Outcomes of health, wellbeing, and support initiatives such as patient safety, staff turnover, sickness absence, and financial impact should be analysed and shared across organisations. Local and national retention programmes should involve staff, patients, and occupational health. Looking after the workforce in all health and social care settings will improve productivity and staff retention as well as providing safer care for patients.