During this battle with Covid-19, the healthcare sector has been at the forefront of the fight, pushed beyond the limit to help others. This article is based on a review, posted in March 2022 by the Women’s Budget group, which stated “calling for: a re-evaluation of feminised roles such as nursing and care work, and greater opportunities for training and career progression; tackling workforce shortages; a recognition of the increased discrimination faced by BAME and disabled staff; the prioritisation of the needs of a diverse range of groups”.
It is widely known that health, social care and social work sectors form one of the largest employment sectors within the UK economy, employing approximately 4.4 million people in 2019. The workforce is also predominantly female: 78% of employees in these sectors are women which is a great statistic to see. However, these divisions are hierarchically structured by gender, and staff shortages have intensified long standing issues of excessive workloads with decreased benefits and outcomes.
The Autumn Budget in 2021 announced an increase of NHS core funding to £162.6 billion, a wide growth of 3.8%. Whilst this is a positive change it is still below the 4% (a 0.2% difference which equates to approximately £324m) that the Kings Fund estimated is needed to improve services, including short shortages. NHS hospitals, community providers and mental health services have conveyed a shortage of nearly 84,000 staff, including 38,000 nurses. As a result, recruitment from overseas have increased to prevent staff shortages. This may provide a short-term solution, but it should be further investigated to see why staff shortages increase each year alongside satisfactory among current healthcare workers.
In addition, this review has identified how BAME communities generally experience poorer health than the overall population, and health inequalities exist between different minority ethnic groups. This review has found women are more likely to use GP services than men. The GP consultation rate for women is 32% higher than that for men, partly due to reproductive-related consultations. Consequently, GP appointments and the number of GP practices have fallen consistently since 2015. The demand for healthcare is increasing whilst availability to help is decreasing – a possible concerning factor.
As a result, further evaluation is needed to address the possible implications of how staff shortages may start a domino effect, leading to decreased appointments and availability for patients, especially in the ethnic minority community.
Written by Nisha Uddin (Future Genetics Research Scientist)