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Trusts scramble to address nurse staffing concerns

The NHS is continuing to recruit hundreds of extra qualified nurses a month with numbers at their highest for a decade, latest workforce data shows.

The continuing spike in recruitment is clear evidence that many trusts are now concerned about staffing levels, in the wake of the Francis report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust and early findings from the Care Quality Commission’s new inspection regime.

Across the NHS workforce, there were 314,173 whole-time equivalent qualified nurses and midwives in February, which is 8,148 more than in August 2013.

Nearly 70% of the increase was among hospital nursing staff. There were 174,632 WTE registered nurses and midwives working in the acute sector in February, which is 5,583 more than in August 2013 and 570 more than in January.

The latest workforce figures were published last week by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

They indicate there are now more qualified nurses and midwives in the NHS than at any point since monthly data began to be collected in September 2009 and more than in any year since 2003.

However, while more nursing staff are beginning to trickle through to the frontline, survey findings published earlier this month have revealed trusts still have a long way to go.

A joint poll by Nursing Times survey and ITV revealed more than eight of 10 nurses said they did not have enough time to give patients adequate care.

In addition, a survey of 104 trusts by NHS Employers showed an overall shortage of over 12,500 whole-time equivalent nurses in January. It found 83% of trusts were experiencing qualified nursing workforce supply shortages and 45% had actively recruited from outside the UK in the last 12 months to fill vacancies.

As well as the overall figure – reported last week by Nursing Times – the NHS Employers survey revealed regional variations in vacancy rates and number of posts vacant across the 12 local education and training board areas in England.

The vacancy rate ranged from 18% in South London to 6% in the North East.

Readers' comments (21)

  • I think that even filling these vacancies, it will only bring staffing up to minimum required levels.

    People might see how stretched staff are, that even more staff are needed to move from this minimum care, with minimum staffing numbers to a good and safe care level for everyone.

    Shame the government and fat cats don't really want to put money into delivering excellent health services but to keep money for themselves and their projects. When they're ill, guess they're not on a ward with 7 or more patients with 1 registered nurse allocated to look after them. Patients will call for any nurse when they want help irrespective of who's allocated, and probably already busy.

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  • tinkerbell

    there's been no forward planning with staffing numbers, ever, it's always '' and managers appear not to be ever able to see a crisis looming until it smacks them in the face and they have to start scrambling to save their own jobs. When will managers learn that without a workforce to manage they are making themselves redundant. Morons!

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  • The appalling nurse staffing levels which we have endured for years were planned and implemented by "nurse managers" .

    Why more of these "nurse managers" are not being held to account by the NMC is a constant source of puzzlement to me.

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  • my local acute FT has just done a recruitment round in Spain and Portugal. Another cohort of staff that dont speak English well enough for elderly patients to understand or be understood, dont drive and have nowhere to live. If they treated existing staff with a bit more compassion and respect perhaps tey would stay in post longer

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  • I imagine life could be very difficult if large numbers of staff don't speak English well. If you have one or two others can take their time to support them and they will learn fast but a whole group is a different matter and unfair on the elderly.

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  • The NHS should be recruiting those who are or have just retired. They could be contracted to work 2 day a week and many would be happy to do that. I am 69 and have just started a new job.
    It they are fit, up to date Why not.
    You cant say they were able ro tun a ward last week but not fit to work on the same ward this week

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  • Trusts aren't concerned, they have been pushed into it. We do need more trained staff and total staff numbers, but being a cynic too, I see this as another ploy that will put trusts into further deficit, and pave the way for privatisation.

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  • This situation will only get worse as nurses are not valued, continuously vilified and poorly paid. The number of nurses nearing retirement is large and the work load and expectation of those who will be left is increasing. Bringing in staff from abroad wont help long term when they find out just how hard it is here to deliver high quality care whilst society views nurses as little more than skilled manual labour.

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  • Time to listen to our highly trained, caring and put upon front line staff or to continue with 'crisis management'? It's a no brainer.......

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  • it will be interesting to see how well treated and respected staff from abroad will be and how long they will stay. unless they are desperate for a job which they cannot get in their own countries they probably find conditions far better at home, at least in European countries.

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  • Up to 5 years ago, I was one of those "nurse managers" referred to by Jenny Jones. In the Trust I worked for we were originally titled heads of nursing and supported by a director of nursing who did all she could to support her profession. When she left, we were turned into business managers and found ourselves between a rock and a hard place - pressure from below to increase staffing leverls and increasing pressure from above not to. Slowly, most of us "dinosaurs" were got rid of one way or another. So it is not always the fault of the "nurse managers".

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  • As one who retired last year (55, MHO status), with my Band 7 post having been "re-structured" away the year before, after years of vainly protesting to managers about inadequate staffing levels, both on wards and in community teams, there is absolutely no way on earth that I would consider returning to work for the NHS unless there are drastic changes to working culture, meaning that the prevalent bullying by management must go, clinicians concerns must be listened to and acted on, commissioners must consult both patient groups and clinical staff when "commissioning" services rather than managers who have no relevant clinical knowledge, and...and...

    Too much is wrong now and, despite the protestations above from a "nurse manager" this goes back a long way (I'd love to have met a director of nursing who did support nurses, rather than just feathering their own very well-paid nests or persecuting those who complained about poor standards of care, but I didn't).

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  • After being a practice nurse for many years I retired then decided to do bank nursing in a community hospital. OMG very often I was expected to look after 14 patients plus end of life care. I spoke to the matron about the low morale of the staff and was told it was people like me who caused it. Nothing was done except the big stick was wielded. Eventually a number of staff went off sick with stress which made the problems even worse.

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  • Anonymous | 27-May-2014 4:47 pm

    often the response is, if you don't like it leave, instead of taking it as constructive feedback and a sign that things need to improve!

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  • Anonymous | 27-May-2014 3:01 pm

    very well said.

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  • The big recruitment drive for more Health Visitors has resulted in 15 being trained in our Trust but only a possible 10 jobs because there is insufficient funding?? Meanwhile all the long serving experienced HVs are getting the hell out of it in large numbers. Massive caseloads with huge responsibility and being paid as senior staff nurses; who wants to stick around for that?

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  • Successive governments knew the birth rates in the 1950s and 60s at the time (they collect the figures) and the impact it would have on future retirement figures. That is, regarding those that would be coming up to retirement and their pensions in the future. So it's been bad management and no forward planning on their part. They took everyone's contributions, which should be relative to any pay outs, be it salary or pension. Where has all that money gone? Thus, they should also have the figures of birth rates since and the proportion of staff required to fill retirement posts. Our future generations are the ones that are going to pay the price. I have just retired and feel that is one advantage of my advanced years.

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  • Anonymous | 27-May-2014 11:02 pm

    agreed. when it comes to issues as vital as health and social care governments should put party politics aside and focus on meaningful forward planning instead of spending their time obsessing about who will win the next election!

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  • 29 May 2014

    Staffing concerns boils down to Budget allocations by Parliament to Department of Health to each Health Authority, Foundation Trust, Primary Care Trust and so on.

    Lets face it, the United Kingdom does NOT have anymore money. We are living on borrowed money from the IMF-WB. Our economy is NOT recovering, if any politician/ member of parliament says that our economy is recovering, they are telling LIES to the general public because they are after only your votes. The have NO genuine concern for the health and social care of the elder person/ patient. This Next Generation will suffer BECAUSE of the Follies of this current parliament or goverment in power. There is a widening gap between the Rich and the Poor. The Middle Squeeze are to soon to become Destitute.

    If the current goverment has a genuine concern for health and social care. They should have set aside a ring fence budget for health and social care. They should have reduce Parliaments, Chief Executives, Board Members that includes local government, salaries and pensions. They should stop the 20% charge of NHS Logistics to all items purchased to them by acute and community hospitals. They should cutdown the top and middle managers, especially the interim managers in the NHS.

    Finally, the current goverment should start taking back the huge sums of taxpayers money loan to the Big Banks during the Banking Crisis of 2008. That is a Lot, Lot of money that could finance the health and social care that includes the clinical staffing issues nationwide.

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  • We have a huge population increase that never could have been predicated many years ago and will continue to expand rapidly. Therefore the 'jam' has to be spread much more thinly now.

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