Study predicts big demand for nurses
Health services will suffer if staff numbers and skills are reduced, report warns.
The NSW government will have to create an additional 40,000 positions in the state’s public health sector by 2030 in order to meet demand for services, based on current trends.
Nurses will account for more than 40 per cent of those positions based on the current workforce structure, says a report by the McKell Institute, an independent public policy organisation.
The Institute’s findings suggest the government will have to recruit more than 16,000 additional nurses over the next 12 years.
In June 2017, the NSW public health system employed 114,597 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff, including 47,282 nursing staff or 41.3 per cent of the total.
The report, titled Keep NSW in a Healthy State – Investing for the Future was written by Macquarie University academics Ben Spies-Butcher and Bob Davidson.
The report says NSW needs to commit to an annual health budget of at least $37.6 billion (2017 prices) by 2030 just to keep pace with current trends in health spending and outcomes.
That means a real increase in expenditure of at least $14.3 billion (2017 prices) and an additional 40,000 FTE positions by 2030.
The state government estimates its total health spending in 2017–18 will be $23.4 billion.
“With further investment NSW can be a world leader,” the report says.
“The good news is action is possible. Taxes in Australia are low by the standard of other rich democracies.
“Public spending on healthcare as a proportion of the GDP in Australia is in the bottom half of the OECD, below Italy, the UK, Canada and even the USA.
“Overall the system is relatively efficient, producing good outcomes at an affordable cost.
“Ensuring the system is adequately and appropriately funded promises real returns, not only in terms of jobs, but in the form of longer, healthier lives for all Australians.”
Increased investment in health will create jobs in regional NSW
It recommends the government makes increased health spending the foundation of a regional employment and development package to “support equitable and balanced growth across NSW.”
“Additional public investment in healthcare is likely to have significant social and economic benefits, especially in regions with high unemployment where both economic multiplier effects and public health benefits are likely to be largest.”
The report observes that “good health services are only possible if there are sufficient well-trained and experienced professional and other staff to provide these services.”
“There is citizen and consumer demand for ensuring adequate staffing for health services and for increasing labour inputs in these services.
This is shown, for example, by “widespread concern over waiting times in emergency and for surgery, and by support for campaigns to decrease the ratio of patients to nursing staff in both health and aged care.”
There are two broad ways that the demand for more staff can be met, the report says.
One option is the “high road” with “good remuneration and working conditions that stimulate greater recruitment and retention.”
The other option is the “low road” where “people with less training and/or prepared to accept lower pay and conditions are used to fill the gap.”
“While aspects of some healthcare services may be undertaken by lower level staff, reducing costs without harming the quality of the service, in general, reducing the quantity or quality of labour in the
direct delivery of services is likely to have negative effects on service quality.
“The high road approach is clearly preferable in under-pinning high quality and stable healthcare, both now and over the long term.”
The report emphasises “the importance of a good working environment and career paths for health staff to ensure that staff can be both attracted and retained.”
FIND OUT MORE
You can read the full report at:www.nswnma.asn.au/keep-it-public/