UK Needs to Recruit an Additional 209,000 Nurses by 2050
• But steady improvements in nursing recruitment mean that the sector is currently on target to meet this requirement, if current rates continue
• Across the UK as a whole, a skills exodus over the downturn and restrictive immigration policy has driven an overall workforce shortfall despite recent employment growth
The UK needs to recruit an additional 209,000 nurses by 2050 in order to satisfy the long-term needs of the country in line with projected population growth, according to specialist recruiter Randstad Care.
Previous Randstad Care research forecast that in order to support the predicted UK population by 2050, the nursing workforce would need to be 938,000 strong and would need to grow by nearly 9,000 a year from 2008.
Thanks to strong recent growth in employment, the UK nursing workforce is currently on target to meet this demand with a 29% increase in the number of nurses employed in the UK since 2008. In 2013, there are now 729,000 nurses employed in the UK.
But an ageing population across the UK may cause demand to intensify by 2050, meaning that although recruitment of nurses is currently ahead of the curve, the sector still needs to focus on its staffing levels in order to keep up with demand.
Victoria Short, managing director of Randstad Care, said: “A lot has changed in nursing over the past five years in particular and it’s fantastic to see that the sector has forged ahead in terms of growth and job creation. Average nursing salaries have risen by 6% since 2008 and new career paths have emerged, helping the sector to shed its former image of being a low paid profession. Nursing is now seen as a good graduate career choice and this has been fuelled by the economic downturn as guaranteed job opportunities and job security become ever more paramount for today’s university students.
“But it’s far too early for the sector to rest on its laurels. As the UK learns to cope with its ageing population, we may see demand for certain types of nursing increase dramatically. The Government has committed to move elderly patients out of residential nursing care and back into family homes where they will receive additional support from district nurses. If this trend continues, demand for district nurses in particular could intensify rapidly over the next few decades.”
Social Work sector – one of the most severely impacted
Unlike nursing, the UK’s workforce of social care professionals is significantly behind target to reach the required level by 2050. The number of employed social workers in the UK has actually fallen by 6,000 since 2008, meaning that the workforce is 12.6% below the number it should be in 2013, to meet demand in 2050.
The analysis showed that with a projected population of 74.5m, the UK will require a social care workforce of 162,000 in 2050 in order to meet demand. In 2013, the number of employed social care workers was just 92,000 – just 57% of the volume required by 2050.
Victoria Short continued: “Unlike nursing, a negative perception of the social care profession still persists. Following bad publicity in the sector, we recorded a downturn in motivation among social workers. In addition, reports of low pay and long hours can put many people off choosing to pursue a career in the Care sector. New initiatives such as the Frontline scheme to attract high calibre graduates into the sector are vital to challenge existing perceptions about social care. It can be done as we have seen in nursing previously.”
The UK as a whole
The UK workforce as a whole is currently 268,000 employees short of the number required across key sectors to satisfy the long term demand of the country.
Despite strong recent employment growth figures, the current workforce needs to be 29,352,000 strong – 0.9% higher than the number of people currently employed in the UK – for the country to be on track to achieve the necessary workforce size by 2050.
Previous research from Randstad showed that with the UK population forecast to be 74.5m in 2050 , the number of people employed across the country would need to be 34,772,085 in order to support demand . To reach this level of employment, the number of people in work in the UK would need to grow by 146,502 per year on average from its pre financial crisis level of 28,619,000 in 2008.
Migration will play an increasingly important role in bridging the shortfall of skilled workers in the UK as the growing population is expected to age significantly over the coming decades. But the number of skilled immigrants arriving in the UK is still a third (34%) lower than before the financial crisis (2007), while the number of workers leaving the UK is 15% higher compared to pre-crisis levels.
Fulfilment is key for staff retention
The industries that are ahead of schedule in terms of workforce size are also the industries with above average levels of professional fulfilment among employees.
Not only is the nursing workforce forging ahead in terms of growth, but its people are also among the most fulfilled in the country with 65% stating that they feel fulfilled at work compared to just 11% who say they feel unfulfilled professionally. Across all industries in UK, 62% of staff report feeling professionally fulfilled while 13% feel unfulfilled . However while one in eight (13%) of UK’s workers said they were unfulfilled, roughly one in seven (15%) social workers said they were unfulfilled.
For a full table of industry demand and shortfall visit