Staff shortages put care of the dying at risk

7 December 2011
The National Council of Palliative Care (NCPC) is warning that specialist care of the terminally ill may be put at risk in the future because of a recruitment crisis and ageing nursing workforce.

The latest annual edition of the National Council for Palliative Care’s Specialist Palliative Care Workforce Survey, which draws on findings from 2010, expresses concerns about the quality of care the terminally ill receive in the future.

A survey by NCPC - which is the lead charity for Dying Matters - has shown that the number of specialist palliative care nurses fell by 6.9% from 2008 to 2010.

The study also showed an average vacancy rate among specialist palliative care nurses of 8.7% and among specialist palliative care consultants of 7.8%.

Almost four out of 10 specialist palliative care nurses were over the age of 50, as were 44.7% of social workers, 36.3% of physiotherapists and 25.3% of occupational therapists. More than a quarter, or 27.5%, of specialist palliative care consultants were aged over 50.

The findings come as the number of people dying each year is predicted to increase from about 500,000 to 586,000 in England and Wales by 2030.

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