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Nursing vacancies drop by a third


Nursing vacancies have plummeted by nearly a third since last summer, figures collated by Nursing Times reveal.

The figures, taken from the NHS Jobs website, show there were 2,306 posts advertised at the beginning of August 2009, but nine months later there were only 1,552.

This follows warnings from the Royal College of Nursing that NHS trusts are planning to slash thousands of jobs and as Nursing Times has learnt of nurses being asked to take pay cuts to prevent redundancies.

RCN employment relations advisor Gerry O’Dwyer said the figures indicate employers may be freezing vacancies in response to the public spending squeeze.

He warned against arbitrarily reducing staffing levels or replacing registered nurses with healthcare assistants.

He said: “To yank someone out isn’t just about removing a job, it’s about moving a skill set and staffing ratios. There’s a fundamental difference between a band four and five job. The roles aren’t necessarily interchangeable.”

He said the reduction in job opportunities might also be due to fewer people choosing to leave their posts at a time of financial uncertainty.

Although NHS terms and conditions are transferred when people move jobs, this does not apply to employment protection.  For example, it is not possible for a nurse to claim unfair dismissal unless they have been employed by the same organisation for a year.

Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “We’re certainly expecting problems, and when we expect problems, people don’t tend to move.”

However she said the trend could also be a result of better workforce planning if trusts were holding posts back for newly qualified nurses, to prevent graduate unemployment.

She doubted registered nurses were being replaced with healthcare support workers, saying the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust investigation had put the “fear of God” into trusts considering reducing nursing staff.

While there has been a steady decline in the total number of nursing jobs advertised on NHS Jobs since last August, the biggest drop has been among posts with salaries of between £20,000 and £30,000.

There were 1,637 of these jobs advertised in the first week of August 2009 but only 1,029 at the beginning of this month – a 37 per cent fall.

NHS Employers head of employment services Karen Charman said not all advertisements appear publicly. But she added: “The workforce was expected to become more static during this challenging time for the NHS and this will be reflected in job advertising numbers.”

NHS Employers has encouraged trusts to treat vacancies as possible redeployments for existing staff.

Some trusts are also attempting to save posts by asking staff to take a pay cut, Nursing Times has learnt. For example, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust has adopted a principle of “employment over earnings”.

Its board papers state: “In practice this means that the trust board is committed to maintaining employment for as many staff as it possibly can, whilst recognising that in order to do this there may need to be an adverse impact on individual earnings.”

Chief executive Tony Halsall said the trust needed to save at least £50m over the next four years.

He said: “We are currently working with our staff side colleagues to explore a range of options and will continue to consult with our staff.”

Meanwhile, unions are waiting to hear whether the new government will approve a national agreement for strategic health authorities to take on the role of co-ordinating transfers of nurses from one organisation to another, to avoid redundancies.

Unison senior national officer for health Mike Jackson said unions and employers reached a draft agreement before the election that SHAs would act as “clearing houses” for jobs, but it was never signed off.

He expects a decision could take several months. “Under the plan, for the first time the whole system would be cooperating to avoid redundancies,” he said.

It is also unclear whether the new government will continue to engage with trusts and unions through the social partnership forum, which was set up to promote discussions about NHS workforce policy.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “SHAs can help the redeployment of staff by giving staff access to vacancies through the NHS Jobs website.”

No decisions have been made yet on the working arrangements of the social partnership forum, he said.

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Readers' comments (9)

  • It is a disgrace that NHS employers can either move nurses to work on other wards when those nurses have applied, been interviewed and given the job to work in the speciality they wanted.
    It is also a disgrace after the STRESS CNS' went through for banding to prove they were either a band 6 or 7 and now they are supposed to reapply for their own job and if they don't succeed move to another area or ward.
    There has been yet another batch of managers put into our trust earning far more than hands on nurses and still they treat nurses badly
    Where are the Unions protecting the nurses going through this?????
    Its got to stop The Morale of the HANDS ON WORKFORCE IS ROCK BOTTOM

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  • i totally agree the unions needs to protect band 5 and HCAs. there are many elderly care wards beds lost as the vunerable are always the easy targets to save money. elderly care is a speciality in its self as the nurses have knowledge and experience in long term health conditions including dementia and parkinson’s diseases. the importance of nutrition and dehydration in the elderly. instead nurses are being moved and the elderly patients are placed on very busy medical wards so patients can not get the specialist care they need. dont get me wrong i am not calling nurses or HCAs from the medical wards they are so busy with acute ill patients and the elderly get left. for example i did a bank shift and i made sure all the elderly patients were sitting out of bed and in a chair. food cut up and close at hand. water glass filled up. i also fed some patients whom could not manage. the staff on the ward did not have the time to do this. but i have been a RGN for many years in the speciality of elderly care but i has been moved on due to elderly care beds been lost.

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  • This is an absolute piss take. The need for Nurses on the wards is still there, but the idiot managers at the top are not releasing the funds! This should be criminal negligence on their part! They are knowingly and willingly understaffing wards!!!

    What the hell are we all doing accepting this? We should be getting out on strike!

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  • Mike, a little more professionalism dear...

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  • Anonymous | 27-May-2010 0:34 am, there is a time for professionalism, and a time to just say it how it is, because being prim and proper and saying nothing has really got Nursing ahead so far hasn't it?

    If now is not the time to get angry, I don't know when is!

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  • Agree with Mike.

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  • It is of course possible to be angry and professional at the same time. And I love the concept iof saying it as it is because of course their is only one view!

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  • I have been nursing since 1970 and have never known things to be so bad. What about building teams, personal and professional development? We are just being moved about like goods with no thought about these things. This is why morale is so low. Just go to work, keep your head down, do as much as you can and then go home feeling totally frustrated because you cant carry out the job you have been trained to do and use the experience you have gained over the years. Thank goodness Im out of it soon, but I feel very sad ending my career on a downer.

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  • Just forgetting for one moment the fact that cutting the workforce will lead to further decline in the workplace morale at a time when nurses and HCA's are about at rockbottom and completely burnt out, many having given years of service only to be turfed out because the government have wasted billions of pounds on so called hot shot managers and administration staff not to mention all of the fads and money-wasting ideas they start only to scrap a few months later when they have decided its no longer working; what will this do for patient safety and faith in a system that is rapidly nosediving beyond repair?

    The NHS was set up to protect patients and provide care to the most vunerable from cradle to grave but by continuing to cut nursing and HCA posts and making those still remaining on the workforce work harder and with less time for breaks and more time spent working over their official paid day just to ensure everything gets done, patient safety is being even more comprimised and instead of being able to rely on a system set up to protect the vunerable, we are leaving them wide open to neglect and serious deterioration due to not having the resources to be able to protect them! I, for one, can no longer justify my part in a system that so badly abuses those most at risk of harm!

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