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Dramatic decline in nursing posts fuels job fears

The number of nursing vacancies has fallen by nearly 40 per cent in the last year, according to data gathered by Nursing Times.

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Only 1,446 positions for nursing jobs were advertised on the NHS Jobs website last week, compared with 2,389 in the same week last year. 

The figures, together with new data from the NHS Information Centre, have fuelled fears that NHS trusts are freezing vacancies, are not replacing nurses and are converting posts to lower grades in order to tighten budgets.

Josie Irwin, head of employment relations at the Royal College of Nursing, said freezing posts was a short term solution and urged employers to take a longer term view. She explained: “We have seen responses to financial crises come and go and posts get mothballed. That puts a strain on everybody else and leads to issues with spiralling workloads and work related stress. The work doesn’t go away.”

Queen Margaret University professor of health and social sciences James Buchan said the mix of nurses and healthcare assistants within wards may be changing.

He told Nursing Times: “The long term growth in the NHS has peaked and we are beginning to see some skill mix changes as a result of that.”

Professor Buchan said the lower number of vacancies could be caused by nurses hanging on to posts in the uncertain jobs market.

But Unison’s head of nursing Gail Adams warned that a shortage of vacancies would affect the employment prospects of up to 15,000 newly qualified nurses graduating in August and September. She said: “There’s a significant shortfall in posts.”

Figures released by the NHS Information Centre last week also confirm the drop in nursing vacancies. A snapshot taken in March found that vacancies as a percentage of all nursing positions fell from 3.1 per cent to 2.5 per cent year on year.

Despite the overall fall in vacancies, the data showed that long term unfilled posts in midwifery went up - reflecting an ongoing shortage of midwives. In March this year, 255 midwife positions had been vacant for three months or more compared with 191 in the previous year.

  • Has your trust frozen nursing recruitment? Vote in our poll to the right of this article.

Readers' comments (7)

  • They acknowledge it, yet what the hell are they doing about it? Sod all, as usual.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • They continually highlight that a high percentage of the workforce are due to retire in the next 20 years; yet theirs nothing appealing to entice new blood to nursing. If there is no jobs why bother training.

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  • Exactly, Anonymous | 31-Aug-2010 9:48 pm.

    Don't get me wrong I still think Nursing can be a worthwhile career, but I would not recommend anyone start their training now.

    3 years of working full time for no pay, sacrifice, hard work and stress, no thanks or reward and no jobs at the end of it! What is the point?

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  • The RCN urging employers will have absolutely NO effect on Trusts whose incentives are targets and 'the bottom line'.
    The RCN, to me, are a weak and seemingly powerless organisation and are quoted when the media want to pay lip sefvice to nurses.
    Thousands of nurses pay huge amounts of money to them and what service do they get from them in return?
    As a nurse for 30 years, I have seen a steady decline in the overall quality of nursing care because nurses are under so much pressure to fill in paperwork, write reports, tick boxes, complete computer information screens and reduce their overall time with the patient.
    The clue is in the title - 'NURSE' - not administrator!
    When will the RCN actually have the guts to stand up and say that these changes and the gradual erosion of our profession are unacceptable?
    Probably never! Wake up RCN!

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  • Agree with the above, vital services and nursing roles are being axed, the RCN trumpets its Frontline First campaign but real support at the coal face to those of us who are under threat is non-existent. We desperately need that support but are undergoing reviews with no advice, unaccompanied through a process we suspect is contrary to employment law but have only the words of our employers as to what they can and cannot do to us. Sadly we can't afford solicitors either.

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  • Ditto the Rcn are weak however faced with this tory government to whom this recession is just a gift to realise their true agenda, and if one thinks finding a nursing job is difficult in other careers it is impossible at the moment, iv'e tried

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  • I realy don't know what planet you people are on. You don't need to gather data to establish that trusts are freezing recruitment, just listen to people at the sharp end. Oh sorry, you don't know anyone at the sharp end do you. Anyway it makes no difference, by the time you figure out what to do, you will be retired and it will be of no concern to you, not that it ever was, feathering your own nests is all you are interested in. And of course landing a nice little job on some obscure committee to boost your ego after a long and 'distinguished' career doing what exactly nobody can ever figure out only that you are a very nice person and never rocked the boat so lets reward him/her for whatever it is they distinguished themselves at.

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