Leicester expert addresses Parliamentary Committee on NHS staff shortages

An expert in human resource management has warned MPs of the impact of discrimination on the staff shortage ‘crisis’ within the NHS.

Addressing the Health and Social Care Select Committee today (Tuesday), Dr Wen Wang, Associate Professor in HRM Data Analytics and Interpretation from the University of Leicester School of Business (ULSB), presented findings of a study of 220 NHS trusts in England.

Dr Wang worked with colleagues from Keele University and the University of Wolverhampton to analyse national data and anonymous comments from more than 6,000 NHS workers posted on recruitment website Indeed.com.

They found that internal discrimination from managers or colleagues added to external discrimination of the public, thus added extra cause of ‘burnout’ among health workers who identify as Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME), which leads to an overall 48% higher  ‘intention to resign’ sentiment among these groups.

Burnout is also the decisive factor that drives health workers aged 50 and over to leave the health sector for good. The average retirement age among nurses is 61 years – below the current state retirement age of 66.

As at 31 December 2021, there were 110,192 vacancies for full-time jobs in hospital and community services in England, including almost 40,000 vacancies for nurses.

Commenting on the study, undertaken in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Wang said: “To ensure a zero-discriminatory working environment is the foundation to provide quality care at the NHS, it is good for everyone”

Health workers aged 50 and over account for around one-third of the NHS workforce. A total of 42% of NHS doctors and 20% of nurses are from Black and minority ethnic groups (2021).

In addition to presenting the findings of the study, Dr Wang also presented members of the Health and Social Care Select Committee with a number of recommendations for the retention of staff, summarised in the four Rs:

  • responsibility – holding senior managers accountable in reduction of incidents of discrimination among staff, and between health workers and the public
  • respect – fostering greater respect for groups who are subject to discrimination in the workplace
  • reward – fairer career progression through ensuring accessibility to learning and training opportunities
  • recognition – celebrate and highlight the achievements of health workers in these groups

The Health and Social Care Select Committee is a cross-party group chaired by former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt. It is tasked with examining the policy, administration and expenditure of the NHS and associated bodies in England, and makes recommendations to the UK Government.