Health and social care workforce Workforce shortages are the biggest challenge facing the NHS and social care in England. This issue has been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has exposed the dangers of running a system with significant shortages. The Health Foundation’s REAL Centre puts into context the scale of the workforce challenge, using independent evidence and research to support better long-term decision making.

This page showcases our analysis of the issues impacting the health and care workforce. It will be regularly updated as new research is published, including our forthcoming landmark report exploring projections of NHS workforce demand and supply over the next decade.

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  • Staffing shortages are an existential threat to the future of the NHS. 

  • The NHS staffing gap in trusts in England alone stands at around 110,000 full-time equivalents, but new research from the Health Foundation’s REAL Centre outlines how this gap is likely to grow substantially by 2030. 

  • Workforce shortages are also endemic in adult social care in England, with recent data from Skills for Care suggesting there were over 100,000 vacancies in the sector on an average day in 2020/21.   

  • A comprehensive long-term workforce strategy is crucial and must be backed by investment. 
     

Workforce supply and demand projections

Our analysts estimate how the demand for NHS staff might grow in the coming years alongside projections of NHS staff supply.

Working paper

How many NHS workers will we need over the coming decade?

May 2022
Working paper

The latest REAL Centre working paper examines how many full-time equivalent staff the NHS in England...

REAL Centre

Report

Health and social care funding projections 2021

October 2021
Report

The REAL Centre sets out projections of the funding the NHS and social care system in England may...

REAL Centre

Chart

How much does the NHS and social care workforce need to grow by over the next decade to meet demand?

Chart

In the next decade the NHS workforce needs to grow twice as fast and the social care workforce four...

REAL Centre

Report

Building the NHS nursing workforce in England

December 2020
Report

The current shortfall of nurses represents a major long-term and growing problem for the NHS. This...

REAL Centre

Pay

Our analysts examine the latest data on NHS staff earnings, exploring past trends and assessing the system underlying NHS staff pay determination.

Report

Nurses’ pay over the long term: what next?

November 2021
Report

We examine long-term trends in UK nurses' pay and ask whether the system for deciding nurses’ pay...

REAL Centre

Press release

NHS pay offer is 'treading water'

21 July 2021
Press release

Our response to the announcement of a 3% pay rise for NHS Agenda for Change staff.

Chart

How has NHS staff pay changed over the past decade?

Chart

Over the past 10 years, there has been very little change in overall average basic pay for NHS...

REAL Centre

Modelling

The REAL Centre works in partnership with leading experts and academics to research and model the future demand for care and the supply of workers entering the workforce. 

Project

Nurse supply model

Project

This project aims to enable projections of the future nursing workforce supply in England under...

REAL Centre

Working paper

Nurse supply model: overview

December 2021
Working paper

This working paper provides an overview of the context for nurse supply in England and the various...

REAL Centre

Blogs

Read commentary on the NHS and social care workforce from our experts.

Blog

What action is required to make NHS workforce shortages a thing of the past?

13 May 2021
Blog

What is needed to overcome short-termism in workforce planning for the NHS and social care? Anita...

REAL Centre

Blog

What might COVID-19 mean for England’s nurse supply?

15 March 2021
Blog

What are the long-term challenges for nurse retention and recruitment following the pandemic? Nihar...

REAL Centre

Blog

Staff shortages left the NHS vulnerable to the COVID-19 storm

12 January 2021
Blog

We are seeing the consequences of years of workforce planning failures, says Anita Charlesworth.

REAL Centre

Blog

Addressing the nursing shortfall

13 December 2020
Blog

Nihar Shembavnekar introduces the REAL Centre's nurse supply model, and explains why we hope it will...

REAL Centre

Media and spokespeople

Browse our recent press releases and get in touch with our spokespeople on the NHS and social care workforce.

Press release

NHS is again turning to non-UK workers to plug large gaps in the nursing workforce

18 May 2022
Press release

Our response to the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s annual nursing register and HEE budget...

Press release

MPs vote wrong way on social care cap and workforce planning 

31 March 2022
Press release

The Health Foundation's response to House of Commons votes on the Health and Care Bill.

Our workforce spokespeople

Profile

Anita Charlesworth

Profile

Anita Charlesworth is Director of Research and REAL Centre (Research and Economic Analysis for the...

Profile

Elaine Kelly

Profile

Elaine Kelly joined the Health Foundation in October 2018 as Head of Economics Research.

Profile

Nihar Shembavnekar

Profile

Nihar Shembavnekar joined the Health Foundation in February 2020 as an Economist.

Profile

Prof James Buchan

Profile

Jim joined the Health Foundation in 2017 as a Senior Visiting Fellow.

Research

Explore our research projects focusing on the NHS and social care workforce

Programme

Efficiency Research Programme

Programme

This programme awards research teams for projects looking into issues of efficiency and...

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We look for talented and passionate individuals as everyone at the Health Foundation has an important role to play.

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The Q community

Q is an initiative connecting people with improvement expertise across the UK.

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