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RCN responds to 50,000 extra nurses claim: ‘political target not based in reality’

30 Nov 2023

The NHS waiting list is growing four times faster than the nurse workforce.

Nursing staff standing at side of bed

Today, the UK government is claiming it has hit its 50,000 extra nurses target but the RCN argues it’s false to claim this as a success, with patient demand far outstripping the number of nurses recruited.

Our analysis shows that patient waiting lists have grown 70% since the target was set out in the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto, while there’s only been a 16% increase in nursing staff.

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 NHS workforce plan will remain a pipedream 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.” 

Since 2019, the patient waiting list for elective care has grown more than 4 times faster than the number of nurses recruited. Widespread regional variation across England also means there’s a postcode lottery for patient care, with some areas having significantly fewer nurses.

In addition, data released today (30 November) by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) exposes the government’s continued over-reliance on unethical international recruitment from red-list countries. 

“This has become the norm and cannot continue,” added Nicola. “It’s a false economy. The government should invest in nursing staff in the UK, funding nurse education and fair pay – not destabilising other health care systems.” 


Page last updated - 29/04/2024