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Lisa Smyth: Increased workforce can't keep up with demand


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The publication of the Northern Health and Social Care Workforce Census might seem relatively benign. The document shows a 4.7% increase in nursing numbers between 2014 and 2018 and a 6.9% rise in the number of doctors between 2014 and now.

But what it doesn't show is that staff on the ground face an everyday battle to keep the NHS ship afloat because there are simply not enough of them.

Medical unions have been warning of a workforce crisis for nearly a decade. They have repeatedly called for more training places and better pay and conditions in a bid to increase staff numbers in the NHS.

But it is only recently that we have seen investment in training places and initiatives to address workload for some sectors.

The problem is, while there has been a modest rise in doctors and nurses, the number of people requiring treatment has risen as well. People are living longer and are also getting sicker.

Conditions such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, hypertension and depression are all on the rise, and more people are being diagnosed with a combination of these illnesses. The fact is the increased workforce is not keeping up with demand.

Of course, clerical staff play a vital role in keeping the health service running but it is somewhat troubling to hear that there is almost one person performing administrative roles to every nurse in the health service.

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It is even more concerning when you hear that nurses are sharing desks with 16 other people and spending up to an hour filling in a form every time a patient is admitted to a ward.

It's a vicious circle; inadequate remuneration and a crushing workload are not an attractive prospect to anyone looking for a job, yet while we struggle to fill vacancies, working conditions will never improve.

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