Moving from cryptocurrency to care homes: Addressing the nursing shortage with blockchain technology

Updated on November 3, 2020

By René Seifert

The COVID-19 pandemic has ignited a reassessment of the role that technology can play in tackling health crises. Whether it is contact tracing apps, digitised immunity passports or having a doctor’s appointment over Zoom, technology has been the bedrock of innovation and the way health-related challenges have been tackled and overcome.

With this in mind, for us at this has raised the question: are any pioneering technologies, such as blockchain, readily available to help tackle the growing gap in skills amongst nurses?

Nursing shortages: where are we now?

Staff shortages right across the UK’s healthcare sector have been well documented for a number of years now, with a recent report forecasting that shortfalls in the NHS are expected to grow from over 100,000 in 2018 to almost 250,000 by 2030[1]. While the coronavirus pandemic has served to make these workforce shortages more acute, it has particularly highlighted the significant pressures faced by the nursing workforce across hospital, care home, community and wider health and care settings.

It is thought that there are now an estimated 50,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in the UK alone[2] and we are currently working to fill 3,000 verified nurse roles. Due to the immediate need for nurses throughout the pandemic, staff have even been brought in from studies and retirement. But this solution remains unsustainable in the long-term, with concerns over health and safety, stress levels among staff and the impact on patients, all being sighted as problems arising from a growing shortage of nurses.

This shortfall in skills is being compounded by the lengthy and bureaucratic process of verifying healthcare credentials and qualifications. For context, the current recruitment process can take anywhere up to six months, which is particularly the case when it comes to hiring nurses from abroad and verifying their credentials. However, this is a timeframe that hospitals, care homes, and wider health and care settings just simply don’t have right now.

The role of blockchain

With these challenges in mind, one technology that is emerging as a possible solution and can help streamline the recruitment process, is blockchain.

A blockchain is a shared, distributed file which records transactions. Each transaction is added as a block and is stored decentralised in the chain. Crucially, this means that no central party has control over its content, and nobody can tamper with the records because every member has to agree to its validity and can check the history of record changes.

Early reports about blockchain were dominated by references to cryptocurrency, which made it seem like the only application for the technology would be across the financial services market. However, a range of sectors have begun to utilise the technology for a variety of use-cases, including health and social care. In particular, blockchain in healthcare is usually mentioned in the context of patients’ medical records, as it can provide absolute proof and confidence that they cannot be altered.

However, in light of the growing shortage of nurses and the impact it is having on patient care, other use-cases for blockchain must be considered across the sector, as the scope for innovation with this technology is limited only by our imagination.

Blockchain-powered verification

With this in mind, an innovation that is gathering pace when it comes to taking on skill shortages is blockchain-powered verification. For example, using a blockchain-enabled professional document verification platform can enable candidates to securely upload and verify private documents, such as passport or university certificates, providing them with a form of portable credentials. NHS recruiters and healthcare regulators can then view and verify candidates’ credentials against the blockchain.

From a recruiter’s standpoint, this can help to drastically streamline the verification process by eliminating the continual churn of verification requests on employers and educational institutions every time a healthcare professional applies for a new role. For candidates themselves, the process is also expedited as their credentials only need to be verified once before being saved on the blockchain. They can then share this with potential employers at any point during their careers, rather than having to be verified each time when applying for a role.

In addition, the fallout caused by the pandemic means that heightened CV fraud is more likely, so employers must have the peace of mind that candidates have the credentials they say they have and are who they say they are. By using blockchain-enabled professional document verification, they can eliminate the risk of hiring unqualified, fraudulent individuals, ensuring that patients and co-workers are protected.

Overall, where it might have taken the NHS anything up to six months to verify an overseas nurses’ credentials, the latest blockchain-enabled online platforms remove these obstacles in one fell swoop. This offers the NHS a way to significantly reduce the time-to-hire of nurses by up to 20-30 days through giving healthcare recruiters access to a bank of prescreened and verified nurses who are ready to down tools and move where they are needed most. For the sake of the ongoing fight against COVID-19 and the long-term health of the healthcare sector, this increased efficiency, without compromise on security, could prove to be the difference.

Blockchain isn’t a cure, but it can secure nursing’s long-term future

Skill and staff shortages have been a burden on the healthcare sector for many years. Coupling this with the Covid-19 pandemic and even the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the nursing sector, in particular, is under mounting pressure to get the skills they need in place.

However, with emerging technologies such as blockchain beginning to be innovatively applied across the sector, there is light at the end of the tunnel. What is immediately certain is that now is the time for industry regulators and nursing recruiters to turn to blockchain-enabled document verification services in order to fast-track their hiring process and help build a workforce fit for the future.

René Seifert is co-head of



The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.