Key economic indicators for healthcare

The shortage of healthcare workers is a global issue with the World Health Organisation estimating a gap of 12.9 million healthcare workers by 2035, growing from 7.2 million in 2013 (A Universal Truth: No Health Without a Workforce, WHO, 2013).

The WHO identifies a variety of reasons driving the shortage including an ageing workforce, not enough young people training and increasing demand, as populations live longer with more complex needs.

In the UK, shortages of qualified nurses and consultants have been highlighted in the media. In February 2016, the BBC reported (using freedom of information requests) that 69% of Trusts were actively seeking to recruit aboard, with vacancies averaging 9% for nurses and 7% for doctors, compared to 2.7% for the UK economy in general.

There are a number of factors specific to the UK that have led the demand for nurses to outstrip supply. Following the publication of the Francis Report in 2013, “safe staffing” guidelines were introduced, boosting the number of adult nurses employed by 6.4% (10,000 WTEs) from 2012 to 2015 (Evidence from NHS Improvement on clinical staff shortages, NHS Improvement, 2016). In addition, the level of activity in hospitals, particularly emergency admissions has continued to increase.

This report focuses on other key economic indicators that may impact on the ability to recruit nursing and other healthcare workers locally, such as high house prices and general trends in employment.  

The indicators reviewed are analysed at a local authority level where possible, to give an understanding of the national profile and regional differences in economic factors that may shape the provision of health and care services, particularly in relation to workforce, capacity, recruitment and retention. 

The report goes on to review the general employment landscape of the United Kingdom looking at available data on Job Seekers’ Allowance (Claimant Count)/ Labour Force Survey), those who are unemployed and how many of those are actively seeking employment. 

Finally, an analysis of nursing vacancies per local authority provides an indication of the regional variation in nursing shortages and allows possible correlation with the wider economic indicators to be considered. 

David Hughes

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