• 21 January 2021
  • 2 min read

Covid-19 Didn’t Bring Retired Nurses Back – But It Is Highlighting A Deeper Problem

  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder
    • Mat Martin
    • Thijs Mostert
    • Julia Orege
  • 7
  • 1704
Campaign failed due to poor administration, not a lack of willingness from nurses

NHS England has revealed only 1,007 former nurses out of 71,000 returned to work last summer while Covid-sickness absence left hospitals with a net drop of 3,694 full-time nurses.

According to a recently published NHS report, only 1,007 eligible former nurses out of a total of 71,000 returned to work during the first peak in COVID-19 hospitalisations.

Meanwhile, sickness caused by COVID-19 actually left hospitals with a net drop of 3694 full-time nurses.

It’s also been suggested that thousands more applied to return, but were prevented by the complication of the process and so-called ‘red tape’.

This suggests the government’s much-advocated attempt to bring back retired nurses did not succeed.

Administrative errors lead to frontline shortages

According to the report, the main reason the campaign failed was poor administration, rather than a lack of willingness from former nurses.

Firstly, data was lacking on the numbers of nurses actually needed, as well as the skillsets that were especially in demand.

But the bulk of the criticism was reserved for consultancy firm Capita, who the project was outsourced to.

In some cases, for example, it took the firm 26 days to hand nurses’ information to the relevant trusts.

---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------

What do YOU think?

Let me know your thoughts in the Comments

---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ----------

This report offers more ammunition to the many critics who are unhappy with how the government has managed recruitment during the pandemic.

Call in the military

Shortly after the report was released, some NHS trusts across the UK started using military personnel to help with staff shortages.

These scenes paint a particularly stark image of where NHS nursing currently is.

And it’s also worth noting the deeper, underlying issues faced in terms of nursing recruitment and retention – which could actually worsen after the pandemic.

The number of nurses suggesting they intend to leave the profession has now risen to 35%, up from 25% in 2019.

Therefore, retention is just as big a problem as recruitment currently.

NHS England has said it is investing an extra £180 million into nursing recruitment and training – and UCAS has reported a 26% jump in successful nursing student applications.

These are rare positives within an otherwise difficult situation.

An age-old problem gets worse

The nursing shortages facing the NHS are better seen not as a new problem, but an intensification of an existing one.

Between 2010 and 2018, the number of doctors working in the NHS increased by 15%.

Within the same period, the number of nurses barely increased at all.

OECD data also suggests that the UK is towards the bottom end of the table globally in terms of the number of nurses graduating over the last decade.

Applications continue to increase, so there is some hope that this long-term trend could start to change.

The pandemic has brought nursing into the spotlight, and inspired many to start their own nursing journey.

But it’s widely agreed that the root causes of long-term nursing shortages must be tackled and considered – because nursing shortages are not a new problem.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you!

About the author

  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder

I studied English before moving into publishing in the mid 90s. I co-founded Nurses.co.uk and our other three sites in 2008. I wanted to provide a platform that gives a voice to those working in health and social care. I'm fascinated, generally, by the career choices we all make. But I'm especially interested in the stories told by those who choose to spend their life supporting others. They are mostly positive and life-affirming stories, despite the considerable challenges and burdens faced.

See all of our RGN jobs

6903 jobs currently available

Search Jobs

Care Professionals Helping One Another

We pay people like you to contribute, so that everyone can share. Learn & never miss out on updates & career advice. Join to support our mission.

  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder

About the author

  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder

I studied English before moving into publishing in the mid 90s. I co-founded Nurses.co.uk and our other three sites in 2008. I wanted to provide a platform that gives a voice to those working in health and social care. I'm fascinated, generally, by the career choices we all make. But I'm especially interested in the stories told by those who choose to spend their life supporting others. They are mostly positive and life-affirming stories, despite the considerable challenges and burdens faced.

  • 7 Comments
Want to get involved in the discussion
Sign In Join
    • Thomas Boyle 5 months ago
      Thomas Boyle
    • Thomas Boyle
      5 months ago

      no suprise there, it is similar to the amount of form filling and jumping through hoops that was required to ... read more

    • sally brand 6 months ago
      sally brand
    • sally brand
      6 months ago

      I can only assume that in my area, the NHS is coping and therefore it is cheaper to use the ... read more

      • Oh no!

        Replied by: Matt Farrah
    • Dawn Stephens 6 months ago
      Dawn Stephens
    • Dawn Stephens
      6 months ago

      I’ve recently returned to the NHS after 5 years out of the NHS. I was still practicing in the community ... read more

      • Thanks Dawn. Yes, I hope once(once!)Covid passes and the headlines have moved elsewhere that we don't forget that nursing entered the epidemic severely under-staffed and under-resourced and in need of... read more

        Thanks Dawn. Yes, I hope once(once!)Covid passes and the headlines have moved elsewhere that we don't forget that nursing entered the epidemic severely under-staffed and under-resourced and in need of attention - in both recruitment AND retention.
        read less

        Replied by: Matt Farrah
    • Sue Hester 6 months ago
      Sue Hester
    • Sue Hester
      6 months ago

      This is not as straightforward to answer as you think.Firstly some nurses retired on medical grounds so would not be ... read more

      • My registration lapsed 2 and a half years ago now I have undertaken all the refresher courses and have not been paid for my time.(3 workings days and a fair bit of travel! They seem to ignore my quest... read more

        My registration lapsed 2 and a half years ago now I have undertaken all the refresher courses and have not been paid for my time.(3 workings days and a fair bit of travel! They seem to ignore my questions regarding this). I feel like I've had to chase the NHS for information but also to keep things moving. The latest email stated my details were being forwarded to the coordinator for the nightingale in Exeter. This was 3 weeks ago now. It seems all very unorganised.....maybe that's what you get if you go through Capita and then pick it up from where they left it? It would make much more sense to sort this out on a local level.
        read less

        Replied by: Thijs Mostert
    • Suzanne Loveridge 6 months ago
      Suzanne Loveridge
    • Suzanne Loveridge
      6 months ago

      I left in 2015. Wild horses couldn’t drag me back to service so far removed from the one I joined ... read more

      • Yes, Suzanne. The common theme here is lack of staff generally(not due to the pandemic)and retention(although, you fix one and the other will be helped!)Hopefully Covid has shown the UK that it can't ... read more

        Yes, Suzanne. The common theme here is lack of staff generally(not due to the pandemic)and retention(although, you fix one and the other will be helped!)Hopefully Covid has shown the UK that it can't ignore the lack of frontline nursing numbers any longer.
        read less

        Replied by: Matt Farrah
    • Eugenia  Chizoba Nwankwo 6 months ago
      Eugenia Chizoba Nwankwo
    • Eugenia Chizoba Nwankwo
      6 months ago

      The COVID-19 saga is a very big issue globally, however, i would advice the UK to consider taking international nurses ... read more

      • For sure, Eugenia, the NHS has relied on overseas nurses for years now. In large numbers!

        Replied by: Matt Farrah
    • sally brand 6 months ago
      sally brand
    • sally brand
      6 months ago

      I am one of those "retired" nurses. I left the register when I got no support with revalidation. I applied ... read more

      • That doesn't make any sense to me either. Why have you had no offers of work? Any idea?

        Replied by: Matt Farrah

        Tweet Matt Hancock and Boris you won’t get a reply but it will highlight what a shambles it all is.

        Replied by: Sue Hester