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Government pledge to recruit 50,000 nurses a ‘pipe dream’, RCN says

NURSING leaders have ridiculed a government claim that it has honoured an election pledge to recruit 50,000 new nurses to the NHS.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the commitment, which was made in the Conservatives’ 2019 general election manifesto, “remains a pipe dream.”

The Department of Health and Social Care claimed this week that it had reached its recruitment target of 50,000.

It said in a statement: “Data published today by NHS England shows there were 51,245 additional nurses in September 2023 compared to 2019.

“This means the number of nurses have increased from 300,904 in 2019 to over 352,000 — hitting the government’s manifesto commitment to recruit an additional 50,000 nurses six months early.”

But RCN chief nurse Professor Nicola Ranger said: “Nursing staff will reject government claims that it is ‘mission accomplished’ on nurse recruitment.

“This political target had no basis in the reality of demands on health care. There are still tens of thousands of nursing vacancies in the NHS.

“On every shift nursing staff are caring for too many patients. They’re spread perilously thin leaving patients waiting longer and unable to provide the outstanding care that they want to.

“The ambitious workforce plan will remain a pipe dream without proper investment and critical detail on how it will be achieved. 

“Nursing staff won’t tolerate a status quo of low pay and endlessly increasing demands.”

An increase in registered nurses has also come amid a rise in the number of people joining the register from so-called “red list” countries.

These countries have their own health and care workforce-related problems and under ethical recruiting guidance the NHS is told not to actively recruit workers from these places.

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