“Plan to hire thousands of foreign nurses for NHS is axed”

Owl sats: this one change means that all NHS plans (and even those for privatised health services) cannot work.

“A controversial target of hiring 5,000 foreign nurses a year for at least 15 years has been cut from a flagship plan to deal with the NHS’s staffing crisis, the Observer understands.

The move will frustrate health chiefs, who are desperate for a clear strategy to reduce NHS staffing pressures, which are expected to worsen.

There are also mounting concerns that new post-Brexit immigration rules could end up making the situation even worse unless the NHS is handed special treatment. The government’s long-awaited plan to tackle shortages included the ambition of recruiting 5,000 nurses a year until 2024 to help relieve short-term pressure. However, it is understood that while the latest version talks about the need for a significant increase in nurses from overseas, the specific figure has been removed.

Senior medics have complained about the government’s failure to solve the health service staffing shortage. Many point to the decision by George Osborne, as chancellor, to stop paying nursing students’ tuition fees and maintenance grants as a key factor in the nursing crisis.

Including the target for overseas would be politically difficult as the government remains committed to a big reduction in net migration. The plan is being drawn up by senior NHS executives led by Baroness Harding, the Conservative peer who chairs the regulator NHS Improvement.

Health experts are still unclear about how new post-Brexit immigration rules will affect the NHS. Proposals released last year that migrants would have to earn at least £30,000 a year would have barred more than 40% of migrant nurses joining the NHS in 2017-18, according to the Nuffield Trust thinktank.

It found that 72% of nurses, 70% of scientific, therapeutic and technical staff and 36% of ambulance staff earn less than the required £35,800 threshold for indefinite leave to remain. It said that while occupations with shortages are exempt from the thresholds, such exemptions are temporary.

Its analysis of the new rules warns: “The NHS is in a state of chronic staff shortage due to poor planning and insufficient training numbers over many years. There are 100,000 vacant posts in English trusts alone, although many will be filled by agency workers. The problem is concentrated in nursing and general practice.”

Mark Dayan, policy analyst at the Nuffield Trust thinktank, said: “Even if you take all the actions that we could identify in terms of boosting nurses in training, preventing them from leaving at the same rate, the nursing gap is not going to shrink at all in the next five years without international recruitment.

“We calculated that international recruitment of 5,000 nurses a year would be what it would take to halve the nursing gap, not even eliminate it, by 2023-24. If that doesn’t happen, the sort of shortages we have now will continue. That’s a patient safety issue and the ability of the NHS to move forward and get out of this crisis situation.”

Ditching the figure will place even more pressure on the need to train up British nurses. Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “While it’s beneficial in the short-term, reliance on overseas nurses to plug gaps in England is clearly unsustainable.”

NHS Improvement said: “NHS Improvement and the Department of Health and Social Care are finalising the interim [workforce] plan which should be published shortly.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jun/02/foreign-nurses-target-cut-from-nhs-staffing-plan?

High Street trading German-style

James Timpson, chief executive of Timpson Group:

“I have just got back from Germany, where I’ve been looking for ideas to bring back to Timpson shops in this country. Germany is a good source of inspiration because the weather there is similar to ours — it rains a lot. And rain is good for cobblers. The more it rains, the more shoes wear out. If we were to open in Dubai, I doubt we would do well.

The German retail scene is different from what I see when I travel around Britain, visiting more than 1,000 of our shops each year. There were hardly any vacant sites over there, no closing-down sales — and the high streets and shopping centres were busy. I’m sure the landlords are also doing well.

The Germans are just behind us in the amount they buy online, and they have many of the same brands as our high streets. The problem in Britain is that we have way too many shops — far more than in Germany.

My company rents 95% of its shops from landlords whose aim is to get us to pay the highest rent possible. My fantastic property team battle to find evidence to prove that rents should be lower. We were on the losing side of this cat-and-mouse game for years after I joined the business in 1995. In the past four years, however, the tide has turned.

In the 40 lease renewals we have completed in the past three months, the rents have come down by an average 9.6% — and that doesn’t take into account the generous rent-free periods we’ve also pocketed. There are some shops where the rents have come down by 80%, and more than a dozen where we pay no rent at all.

You will find many retailers complaining about high rents, but you will find even more complaining about high business rates.

When I became chief executive, in 2002, I started a discipline I still abide by today, and still hate doing just as much. I go through the profit-and-loss accounts for every one of our 2,100 shops every month, looking for errors and bad performance. While I’m no accountant, it’s amazing what you can learn.

The biggest change over this time has been how much the rates bill — the amount we pay local authorities as a property tax — has gone up (business rates brought in £25bn for the government in England last year).

The rule of thumb used to be that rates made up 30% of the rent. The figure is now 44% and growing. You can see why many retailers find this difficult to afford and difficult to understand. With online shopping growing, more out-of-town retail parks popping up and consumer sentiment weak, retailers are closing shops at an alarming rate.

However, I don’t think rates are the real problem — it’s rents.

Rates are based on the value of the property. If that goes up, the rates go up. It can take some time for the figure to reflect the true value of the building — and years to be adjusted to a fair level. The lag is the problem.

The Louis Vuitton shop on London’s Bond Street saw its annual rates bill soar from £3.9m to £8.5m a couple of years ago — up 118%. The nearby Chanel shop suffered a 135% increase. The rents rose so steeply because the value of the buildings they trade from had also gone up dramatically. These prized assets come with big bills.

Because of the lag in assessing what each property is worth, many in my chain have been overpaying rates for some years. In essence, Timpson shops in less glamorous locations have been subsidising global designer brands such as Chanel. While we never look for pity, we do like to play a fair game.

Now, on to rents. As they come down, we are seeing a drop in the rates we pay. Landlords are becoming more astute in recognising that it’s often better to take a reduced rent than to receive no rent at all and be forced to pick up an “empty rates” bill on top. This process takes years to unwind — up to 10. Most leases we sign run for 10 years, with a break clause at five. Only at these two points can we challenge the landlord to get the rent down. We still don’t win them all — the rent in Nantwich went up last week!

So retailers shouldn’t worry about the rates, which they can’t control, and concentrate instead on battling with landlords to get the lowest possible rent. This will, in time, lead to lower rates.

I’m proud of the amount we pay in rates (£8.6m last year, against a rent bill of £19.3m). This money pays for our customers to drive on roads to get to the shops, for our sick colleagues to go to hospital, and for schools to educate our children.

While we may not like paying too much, our rates go a long way to help the communities who shop with us. Other retailers should think the same way.”

Source:Sunday Times (pay wall)