A major London hospital has highlighted “real concerns” that it will have a “severe shortage” of nurses over the next 12 months due to a reduction in student places in the capital.
Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust is already under pressure to cut agency spend and recruit more permanent staff, according to a report on staffing levels by its chief nurse and director of patient experience Eileen Sills.
The report, which was presented to the trust’s board on 24 April, focuses on ward-based staffing levels in acute areas, midwifery and the Evelina Children’s Hospital.
The trust is currently trying to fill around 600 whole time equivalent nursing vacancies, the majority of which are at band 5.
But the report noted that it took 16 weeks to recruit a nurse and the lack of a coordinated approach was “hampering” its ability to reduce reliance on temporary staff and “stabilise our workforce”.
To help meet the challenge of filling posts across the organisation, a matron has been seconded into the chief nurse’s office to lead a trust-wide recruitment drive.
“She took up post on the 2 April and her target is to appoint to all existing band 5 vacancies and to have a rolling recruitment programme to avoid the current shortfall being experienced again,” the report stated. But it went on to warn that its efforts are “reliant on the supply of appropriately trained nurses”.
“With the reduction in student nurse commissions within London there is real concern that within 12 months there will be a severe shortfall,” the report said.
“This as the board knows has been repeatedly raised at both London and a national level. At present we understand there are no plans to increase the number of commissions.”
Ms Sills’ review noted critical care and the Evelina Children’s Hospital as particular vacancy “hotspots”. The Evelina has a 31% shortfall across its three wards and critical care has a 14.2% vacancy rate, although the trust hopes that appointments in the recruitment pipeline should reduce this to 5%.
The report went on to detail the shortfall in the children’s hospital, noting that it currently has 56 vacancies, 37 of which are band 5. Meanwhile, the number of staff on maternity leave is described as a “constant challenge” and equates to 5-7% of the workforce. In some areas it is as high as 10%, which equates to 30 posts across the children’s hospital, it said.
“We have planned a series of recruitment campaigns over the spring and summer and are planning to look to recruit in Ireland to fill our more senior posts within specialist areas,” the report added.
Ms Sills concluded overall that the trust did have safe staffing levels, but said there was “no element of complacency”.
The nurse staffing situation will be reviewed by the trust every six months, in line with requirements in the new national nursing strategy Compassion in Practice.
Two further reports will be presented in the summer, which will cover the trust’s community workforce and the nurses and midwives who are non-ward based.
In a statement on the report’s findings, Ms Sills, said: “At the point in time in February when this information was collated for the board paper, our electronic staffing system showed 599 working time equivalent vacancies, however the figures change daily and do not reflect the number of people who have been recruited and are not yet in post.
“We are embarking on a recruitment drive to ensure that we have the right balance of staff and appropriate skill mix to meet the needs of our patients. We currently employ around 4,000 nurses and are seeking to recruit around 300 nurses and midwives across our hospitals and community services,” she told Nursing Times.
“We are acting now to ensure that we have the right workforce for the future and we constantly review and monitor the staff that we need,” she added.
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