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Extent of nurse shortages revealed in new recruitment figures


Parts of the NHS are hiring only one nurse for every 400 jobs advertised, show new figures that reveal the extent of nursing staff shortages in England.

The statistics, released today by NHS Digital, reveal that the number of vacant nursing jobs reached a new high in the three months to the end of September 2017.

“It has never been busier but is shedding experienced nurses quicker than it can find new ones”

Janet Davies

At that point there were 34,260 nursing and midwifery posts advertised, which is nearly 2,500 more than the previous quarter and more than 2,600 up on the same period in 2016.

The data also shows that, as of September 2017, nursing and midwifery had the highest percentage of unfilled whole-time equivalent (WTE) roles out of all NHS staff groups, accounting for 40%.

The figures come amid mounting concern over the number of nurses leaving the NHS, with the rate of departures outstripping the number entering the profession.

A breakdown according to trust type shows the highest number of nursing and midwifery vacancies at acute trusts. with more than 24,000 nursing jobs unfilled in the quarter up to September 2017.

There were nearly 7,500 vacancies in mental health trusts, nearly 2,250 in community providers, 217 vacancies in clinical commissioning groups, and 91 in commissioning support units.

As of September 2017, the highest number of WTE vacancies in nursing and midwifery were for band 5 roles at more than 6,700, followed by 2,650 band 6 roles and more than 1,000 band 7 jobs. There were more than 360 vacancies in nurse roles at band 8a and above and six vacant “senior manager” roles.

“It is particularly worrying to see the drop in numbers of community nurses”

Phillippa Hentsch

In addition, the latest available data on recruitment shows the NHS filled one nurse job for around every seven posts advertised across England in the three months up to June 2017.

However, some areas fared worse than others with the Thames Valley region hiring just five nurses for 1,957 advertised posts – roughly one new nurse appointment nurse for every 400 empty roles.

Meanwhile NHS organisations in the West Midlands NHS managed to fill the greatest number of posts, hiring 1,196 nurses and midwives for 2,817 roles advertised.

The second worst recruitment rate was seen in North West London with 42 nurses recruited for 2,545 posts – about one for every 60 vacancies.

Across the capital, the figures suggested there is just one nurse for every 24 or so jobs. But the Royal College of Nursing warned the situation was likely to be “much worse” as multiple vacancies were often advertised and recorded as single posts.

Bernell Bussue

Bernell Bussue

Bernell Bussue

RCN London regional director Bernell Bussue said the statistics painted a “shocking picture”, with thousands of posts remaining empty “despite hospitals desperately advertising to fill them”.

“The problem is not the willingness of providers to employ nurses, but the fact that they are having to fish from an ever shrinking pool,” he said.

Nationally, RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies said nurses were being driven away from the profession by low pay and stressful working conditions.

The next generation of British nurses has been deterred by the current whirlwind tearing through the NHS – record pressure, lack of funding and poor pay for staff,” she said.

“It has never been busier but is shedding experienced nurses quicker than it can find new ones,” she said. “Earlier cuts to training places are exacerbating the problem just as long-serving staff feel demoralised and pushed to leave nursing.”

Ms Davies called on the government to invest in the profession and ensure robust workforce planning. “When the government allows nursing on the cheap, patients can pay the highest price,” she said.

“It is time to draw a line under this false economy with urgent investment in services and those who provide them – including a pay rise above inflation – and legislation to make ministers accountable for workforce planning and safe staffing levels,” she added.

Responding to the vacancy statistics, the head of analysis at NHS Providers, Phillippa Hentsch, said: “These figures are a further reminder of the difficulties trusts face in recruiting and retaining nurses.

“They show that overall nursing and midwifery vacancies in the NHS rose by 19% in the last two years,” she said. “It is particularly worrying to see the drop in numbers of community nurses.”

She added: “We urgently need a sustainable approach to securing and developing an NHS workforce that is able to respond to growing and changing demand.”


Readers' comments (9)

  • How much longer before there are NO more nurses?

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  • Nurses have a workload that is often physically impossible to achieve, leading to frustration and feelings of inadequacy

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  • I say this regularly
    anyone who takes up nursing is a fool
    I was a nurse for 25 years unblemished service
    Then some disgusting self seeking nurse less than half my age referred me to the NMC using false information
    It took 9 months of fight to obtain a nothing to answer result
    Guess what I now think of nursing, what I think of the NMC, what I think of toxic managers and also what I think of the RCN who initially believed the rubbish said about me. And guess what there was nothing I could do against the complainant even though I proved a pack of lies had been told about me
    If anyone reading this knows a youngster who intends to undertake nursing please ,please, talk them out of it
    AND Read about Amin Abdullah

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  • I say this regularly.... “Nurses are their own worst enemy,” with every ‘improvement’ there has been a price to pay. Sadly it will be the patients who suffer most.
    I have no issue with nurses wanting to better themselves, it seems however they have finally shot themselves in the foot.

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  • The pressure of working as a nurse is just getting too much, especially for the level of pay we get. If trusts & managers would be more flexible about rotas that might help. We still get people working nights & days in the same week, & part time staff having to stretch their hours over as many days as possible. Staff are stressed, tired, and underpaid. unless something major changes, more will leave.

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  • I am a mature nursing student. Once qualified I will be looking to work abroad. If that doesn't happen I will be finding an alternative career. I have witnessed the stress and lack of support from management that nurses face on a daily basis. They are accountable for lives yet you can earn more working in a supermarket! I have worked in other public services which are strapped for staff and cash but the NHS is on its knees. I'm sorry I'm not staying to work here but my health is my wealth and I'd like it to stay that way.

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  • Unfortunately, Its hard now . Short of nursing staff , salary compromised with more work load, and NO NHS bursary forstudents, more stress to become a nurse than before, high academic performance needed etc all counts above all ageing generation needs more care."Where is the nurse?"

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  • bla bla... if there is "shortage of nurses" in the country, how come one nurse who qualified for 6 year can not get job in other trust. Every time i want for interviwor interview to get jobs near to where I live, they will be at list 20 -30 candidates. okay I might not be good enough, what about the rest of the candidates. Few days later the same vacancies are back on NHS site. this is a political game. please please just stop using nurses to play ur game. NHS DON'T CARE ABOUT PATIENT OR NURSES. PLUS. The worst of all is so called managers. Absolutely careless. No compassionate.

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  • Anonymous 31st January 0:09am: if your comment is an example of your literacy skills, I can completely understand why you were not selected. The same goes for other candidates. Nursing is a highly skilled job and should be populated by highly skilled professionals. I have been a manager in and out of the NHS and cared very much about the welfare of my staff. What people do not realize is the pressure from above. Management is a tough, thankless job and in the eyes of employees, any manager is only as good as the last time they said yes! As a manager, I was bullied by my staff (they had done the same to the previous manager, who left nursing altogether) and I left to save my mental health. I am now a staff nurse and much happier. So think before you lay the blame at the door of managers. They may care; they may not be allowed to show it.

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