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Eight out of 10 trusts admit they 'face nursing shortages'

Four-fifths of NHS organisations in England are facing nursing shortages, new figures show.

To address the huge vacancy rate almost half are actively recruiting nurses from outside the UK, according to a new report from the organisation NHS Employers.

The review, based on questionnaires filled out by 104 NHS trusts, found that 83% of organisations are experiencing qualified nursing workforce supply shortages.

The overall vacancy rate across organisations that provided data was calculated at 10% – equivalent to 12,566 whole-time equivalent posts not permanently occupied.

In addition, 45% said they have actively recruited from outside the UK in the last 12 months to fill vacancies.

“Attracting nurses back to practice has the potential to address current shortages”

Janice Stevens

The majority were focusing recruitment campaigns in Europe, with Spain, Ireland and Portugal most commonly targeted, the report states.

There is also a stark number of positions that have been empty for at least three months – which are dubbed “hard to fill vacancies”.

NHS Employers, which also polled three clinical commissioning groups, one special health authority and one social enterprise providing NHS services, found that 42 organisations estimated they have between one and 50 full-time equivalent hard to fill nursing vacancies, a further 39 said they have between 50 and 100.

Worryingly, 8% of organisations estimated that they have 100 nurse vacancies.

Health Education England said that former nurses should be urged to return to work to fill staff shortages.

The organisation, which tasked NHS Employers to conduct its report as part of its work to encourage nurses to return to work in the NHS, is appealing for nurses who no longer practice because they have left the profession to start a family, those who have moved to work in a different part of the health service and others whose registration may have lapsed, to consider returning to a nursing role.

“The NHS has to examine and rectify failings in long-term workforce planning”

Peter Carter

If these nurses were to return to their old jobs it would be a quick and cost effective way to deal with the nursing shortage, HEE said.

Janice Stevens, who is leading the return to practice work for HEE, said: “Where trusts do have shortages of nurses, it is often those with experience that they need most. Attracting nurses back to practice has the potential to address current shortages.

Janice Stevens

Janice Stevens

“The next phase of our work will involve designing an efficient process to ensure the success of any campaign encouraging nurses to return to practice. Preventing staff leaving is equally important and also requires focus and attention.”

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the report was “further evidence of the crisis in nurse numbers”.

He said: “The NHS Employers’ survey shows that the vast majority of health service organisations in England are experiencing shortages in the supply of qualified nurses. RCN research in November found a vacancy rate in nursing posts of 6%, while these figures from the start of 2014 appear to show a 10% vacancy rate.

“More than half of respondents are considering recruiting nurses from abroad because there are not enough in the UK. This is a clear sign of failure in the NHS approach to workforce planning.

“It is certainly positive that NHS organisations are now acknowledging the need for more nurses, but urgent action must be taken to address the current shortfalls in the nursing workforce.

“One part of the solution should be to encourage registered nurses who no longer work in the NHS to return to practice. Bringing their skills and experience back to the health service can be a relatively quick and cost-effective means of plugging the gaps in staffing and the RCN supports HEE’s work in this area.

“Such nurses are an invaluable resource for the NHS, but attracting them back into work will require the provision of dedicated support from employers. There needs to be sufficient funding for return to practice programmes and suitable supervision and mentoring processes in place.

Source: Guzelian

“But above all it must be stressed that the NHS has to examine and rectify the failings in long-term workforce planning that have led to this unnecessary numbers crisis. Without an increase in nurse numbers the quality of patient care in the NHS is being jeopardised. This cannot continue.”

A Department of Health spokesman insisted that the number of nurses working on hospital wards is on the rise.

He said: “Since the Francis Inquiry the number of nurses working on hospital wards has been increasing. But we know the NHS is facing growing demands.

“HEE has already increased adult nurse training places by nearly 10% this year. To help hospitals now, the training body is also encouraging experienced registered nurses back to work.”


Readers' comments (40)

  • tinkerbell

    what else can they do? At last they are having to admit that without the workforce to do the job the job can't be done. For all the managers in place without the frontline staff there is really nothing for them to manage. This job recreation scheme for layers and layers of management must be replaced by boots on the ground. The chickens are coming home to roost and they can't get away with it anymore. Bout bloody time.

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  • who in the right mind would work for the nhs now the tories have ruined it

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  • Pussy

    The Tories have not ruined the NHS it has ruined itself so don't tall rubbish! NATIONAL HS is no more as we treat the world and for free! Something radical must be done but NHS has become a sacred cow and alter things at your peril!!! As for staff shortages it was always thus and I would imagine it will be way into the foreseeable.

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  • jane Smith | 16-May-2014 12:54 pm

    don't tell others they 'tall rubbish!'

    if your are going to follow it by writing further rubbish!

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  • Pussy


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  • Pussy

    Anon before you criticise learn to spell and improve your grammar!

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  • I don't think there will ever be enough nurses to go round. It's not as if everybody wants to be a nurse anyway and as for bringing older nurses back they probably left because they were burnt out and had had more than enough of the NHS! I have to agree with Jane that the NHS is a sacred cow and the politicians and public alike are in love with it! It's a vote loser but n the right hands it could so easily be a vote winner but alas I do not see that day!

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  • Pussy

    Tinkerbell- yes.

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  • What a shame there are so many negative comments and no positive ones.

    If there is an acute shortage of nurses being admitted, who is doing what to rectify that situation? It seems to me that there are lots of people identifying the problem, but very few taking positive steps to put things right, and I only see it getting worse.

    Who do we need to talk to to offer our services? We can't supply a complete solution, but we could supply EU nurses that the NHS don't currently seem to be recruiting, which might help alleviate the situation in the short to medium term to allow more nurses to be trained here in the UK.

    Who do we need to contact?

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  • jane Smith | 16-May-2014 3:48 pm

    'if your are...'

    it was very obviously a typo and not a grammatical error and besides it is the content that is important in the comments and not a literary exercise in perfect English. if you use demeaning put downs and criticise somebody for writing rubbish, which it was not, you should practice what you preach.

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  • Pussy

    Anon you really do not make sense!! I take it you're not a nurse-at least I hope not!!!

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  • jane Smith | 16-May-2014 5:38 pm

    your comment reflects upon you and nobody else.

    you called somebody else's comment rubbish and then proceeded to write just as much nonsense yourself. If you wish to be so childish one could also hope you are also not one!

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  • If they want to bring back experienced retired nurses then they should at least pay them bottom of band 6 and not bottom of band 5 which I believe is the paltry pay experienced nurses are receiving now.

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  • Who in their right mind would return to nursing these days. If you managed to escape stay escaped.

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  • Hospital's do not look after staff these days.
    There is a lot of lip service about flexible working but it is only flexible for the service.

    Staff are kept at the lowest grade possible for as long as possible.

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  • I was recruited from another country over 20 years ago. I look forward to doing nursing here. I did not have an easy ride though. I am now one of the experienced nurses on the ward, with recruits from all over the EU. I help them all the time, I give so much, but from management I am not appreciated.
    The experienced nurses left because as one gets older the work becomes heavier.
    Too many managers too few soldiers on the ground. The government want us to work longer, but the job is very physical in most areas of nursing.
    The experienced nurses left because they realised that they were just pairs of hands. Those lucky to get in management are usually the ones who don't want to continue cleaning up patients rather than people who have a passion for good care and the management of it.
    I have had a few good managers who would roll up their sleives and help on the ground and who kept in contact with work flow, patients and nurses on the floor.
    Generally though our managers will see nurses and carers fainting with the work load and make them to go faster, the way one would not even treat an animal.
    On the other hand I have seen where lazy staff can walk away without doing much and get away with it.
    My conclusion of Nursing in England is Nurse Management is much too poor.

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  • Pussy

    Nurses are treated like slaves and I really despair when I think of the future of our hospitals. All of us I hate to say will be at the receiving end at some time in our lives and at the mercy of understaffing and callous managers.

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  • Duty rota, no thoughts for the nurses, staff is forced to do nights and days. Our night nurses were recently told they must do days and they are not happy about it. Three very good senior left because they only wanted to do nights. Day staff is unhappy as they are forced to do nights.
    Yet when they advertised for night nurses they had so many applied for the post.
    A/Leave is another problem, it is as if we don't deserve it. If you get the days off that you want then you celebrate as if you win the lottery.
    On our ward a nurse cannot have christmas or new year period off. On my last ward you can have a week off either one or the other, it depends on the sisters where you work. The whole duty planning is rubbish.
    The E-rota is clocking up time owing, but not taking in account extra work time spent on the ward.
    I have more fustrating problems, and I can go on and on, little wonder nurses are not happy.

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  • I work in mental health and on a site where a new unit opened two years ago. since it opened staff have left on an average of 2 per month. there are always vacancies particularly at band 5 level. this is against the backdrop of hard economic times where there are 180 applicants for 10 jobs at a local cinema . we have just had our recruitment and retention payment withdrawn worth up to £170 p m and therefore more staff will leave. the pensions are nowhere as good as they were in the nhs.perceptorship newly qualified are staying for a year on there £21,500 salart and then leaving to go to jobs in the private sector for 6k pay rise for four years and the government squabbling over wether they will pay 1% to nursing staff and yet happy to enjoy there 11% rise.its not hard to see why people are leaving or not joining the n h s

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  • michael stone

    I notice it didn't take long for bickering to break out in this one.

    It isn't clear - at least to me - where the money for more nurses is going to come from (some trusts seem to be 'raiding next year's budget' to deal with 'the Francis effect').

    But it doesn't follow that the NHS has got to be either 'privatised' (or based on 'insurance schemes') or shrunken almost out of existence. You clearly cannot have UNLIMITED treatments in a 'paid for out of general taxation' NHS, but you could I consider still have a wide range of treatments funded this way: the debate is between those people who fundamentally dislike an NHS funded out of general taxation, and people [including me] who want it to stay that way.

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