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Two thirds of ICBs and trusts plan on reducing clinical staff

Two thirds of ICBs and trusts plan on reducing clinical staff
By Beth Gault
3 June 2024

Over two thirds of ICBs and trusts are planning to reduce clinical staff to meet efficiency targets, according to an NHS Confederation survey.

Almost all (90%) of ICBs and trusts are also planning on cutting non-clinical staff, the survey found.

In primary care specifically, 75% of PCNs and GP federations said they will have to reduce clinical staff, while 79% said they will reduce non-clinical staff.

The survey, which was carried out between April and May 2024, involved 110 leaders across ICBs, trusts and primary care providers, including PCNs and federations.

Leaders also said they were being asked to make efficiency and productivity savings of 6% on average, however some noted this was as high as 11%.

More than half (53%) of respondents did not think they would be able to achieve these targets for 2024/25.

The main ways organisations aimed to deliver within their budget or meet their efficiency targets were to reduce spend on agency and locum staff (56%), freeze vacancies (39%), deliver services more efficiently (33%) and to redesign how care is delivered (32%).

NHS Confederation said the staffing decreases were ‘stark’ when considering the long-term workforce plan, which illustrates the need for an increase and investment in NHS staff.

It said: ‘The plans from survey respondents and the associated assumptions about efficiencies show a dissonance between the workforce plan, which is predicated on expanding workforce numbers, and the short-term imperative to freeze and cut posts to save money.

‘There is also a conflict between government directives to NHS organisations to increase use of the private and independent sector to help reduce waiting lists, while at the same time ICBs and trusts are being asked to reduce their costs.’ 

It called for a longer-term approach to running the NHS and more capital investment.

It said: ‘NHS leaders and their staff are being required to make substantial savings in the space of a few months. Doing so undermines their attempts to address productivity issues in a strategic way around a plan as they often end up having to make cuts to balance the books in the short term.

‘A long-term and more strategic approach to planning is urgently needed if the NHS is to move away from the ‘boom and bust’ cycle that it is experiencing.’

It comes as more than half of ICSs overspent on their budgets in 2023/24, according to reports by the HSJ which found a total of 25 out of 42 ICSs missed their plans in 2023/24, up from 18 in the previous year.

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