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‘Critical’ nursing shortage at Cambridge University Hospitals


Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust has expressed concerns over “critical nursing staff shortages”, with one in 10 nursing posts remaining vacant.

A report discussed at the trust’s May board meeting said staff shortages have “resulted in a significant number of wards having fewer nurses than recommended on duty for the level and acuity of the patient workload”.

“There is concern that the continued high vacancy rates and difficulties filling gaps in the rota with bank and agency staff may compromise the delivery of kind, safe and excellent care in future months,” the board report continued.

There is also “particular concern regarding vacancy rates in neurosciences”. Last month the trust, which runs Addenbrooke’s Hospital, increased bank rates “to encourage a higher fill rate for requests”.

“The impact of this will be reviewed and a decision made as to whether the increased costs are offset by reductions in agency use and the reduced risks arising from improved fill rates on staffing rotas”, the report said.

Karen Webb, the Royal College of Nursing’s eastern regional director, said nursing shortages have been “gradually building… over the last couple of years” but “it is coming to a head now”.

RCN eastern region

Karen Webb

The “biggest reason” for the shortage was that, despite the trust’s reputation as a world-beating biomedical centre of excellence, there is “not a great deal of nursing research”, she told Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal.

“If you’re the sort of nurse who wants to advance nursing knowledge and theory, you wouldn’t go to Cambridge University Hospitals,” she added.

Ms Webb said because funding for research largely came from Cambridge University, which does not train nurses, “there is no reason why it would want to put money towards developing nurses”.

She has called for a “strategic partnership around nursing research” between Cambridge University and the neighbouring Anglia Ruskin University, which offers nursing courses.

Ms Webb also claimed the nursing shortage was a “direct consequence of the reduction in commissions for nurse education places… over the last four years”, which was “causing havoc across the East of England”.

Nurses are also being deterred by the Cambridge’s high living costs, she warned.

In response, a trust spokesman said: “As a large busy hospital trust we are constantly recruiting both nationally and internationally.”

“We are launching a major local and national recruitment campaign focusing on the great career opportunities available in the hospitals. We will continue to recruit from overseas in addition to local and national recruitment.”

The trust has recruited 21 nurses from overseas in the last two years.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Well if they advertise senior nursing posts internally only and not willing to recruit externally what do they expect ...
    There is no point trying to cherry pick staff when external staff may bring much expertise and fresh ideas
    Hospitals are now reaping what they sow if you don't provide education, career advancement and support for nursing staff to promote retention
    What will you get ? A burnout and de motivated workforce
    It's not rocket science

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  • No nurse I know can afford to live in Cambridge or the surrounding area. As one who used to work there in neurosciences I know the costs involved and believe me it is no joke. I'd love to go back but it is a financial impossibility

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  • maybe if they were to pay a better rate of pay then they maybe able to recruit!

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