Big skill shortages hitting private care

By Agnes Rose

Nursing and skilled healthcare staff shortages are set to be an ongoing challenge for the future of private healthcare, market analysts have warned. 

LaingBuisson’s ‘UK Healthcare Market Report’, 34th edition

They say the independent hospital sector is facing similar challenges to the NHS in recruiting and retaining sufficient nurses and other skilled healthcare staff to safely fulfil exceptional demand levels. 

In a new report on the state of the market, LaingBuisson says: ‘The underlying causes of skilled staff shortages are pay, pandemic exhaustion, the as yet ill-understood high levels of economic inactivity following the pandemic and, crucially, a historically low unemployment rate of 3.7% across the economy as a whole, resulting in a tight labour market generally.’ 

While it believes immediate pressures may recede during 2023, the UK will still have an underlying national shortage of trained healthcare staff due to a shortage of NHS training programmes in recent years. 

The skills shortage was highlighted by Independent Practitioner Today 11 months ago when we revealed bosses were fighting even within the same hospital group to sign up targeted individuals by paying £5,000 signing-on fees.

LaingBuisson UK Healthcare Market Review, 34th edition, reports some independent hospital providers are adopting more innovative solutions such as a nursing apprenticeship programme seeking applicants from sectors such as retail and hospitality. 

On a positive note, it says rising demand for self-pay and private medical insurance, alongside greater interest in corporate health and well-being, could be a boost for those providers who are prepared.


There could also be new opportunities, particularly for cheaper and less labour-intensive services, such as outpatients and primary care. 

Some providers are taking on more private GPs to cater for rising demand caused by GP access difficulties in the NHS, it says.

Demand for private services are at ‘an all-time high’, but Laing­Buisson warns it remains unclear if this will continue in the longer term due to economic uncertainty and inflationary pressure.

The report concludes that:

 Self-pay demand is ‘strong, buoyed by long NHS waiting lists and times, which are unlikely to fall back to pre-Covid levels in the near or medium term’; 

 Underlying PMI-funded demand is ‘stronger than it has been in recent years, re-inforced by rising PMI subscriber numbers’;

 The potential for additional NHS-funded demand is considered substantial ‘as newly formed Independent Care Boards – which took over commissioning of local NHS services from clinical commissioning groups in July 2022 – seek to outsource elective surgery that NHS trusts are unable supply in-house’.