London’s NHS nurse shortage worsened last year, with trusts in the capital operating with more than 10,000 empty posts, new data has revealed.
According to research carried out by the Royal College of Nursing’s London branch, the shortage was equivalent to a 17% vacancy rate – meaning trusts had on average nearly one in five of their nurse jobs unfilled.
“The problem is partly down to shortsighted workforce planning which saw training posts cut in the past”
Some organisations had far higher vacancy rates though. According to the RCN’s analysis, the worst in 2015 were London North West Healthcare NHS Trust with 800 empty posts and South West London an St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust with 160 jobs unfilled – both equivalent to 30% of their funded nurse establishments.
Acute provider Barts Health NHS Trust had the largest actual number of vacancies out of the 36 organisations, with more than 1,000. This was equivalent to 19% of its establishment.
The data, which was collected from trusts in July using Freedom of Information requests (see attached PDF below), showed there were around 2,000 additional whole-time equivalent vacancies in 2015, compared with the same time the year before.
However, the majority of trusts have increased their number of nurse posts in that time. Since last year, funded establishments in London have gone up by an average of 4%.
“Most importantly, the ongoing pay freeze imposed by the government means that nursing staff increasingly just can’t afford to live and work in London”
But trusts have only managed to employ on average an extra 2% staff, compared with the year before.
RCN London regional director Bernell Bussue said London faced a “critical shortage” of permanent NHS nurses.
“The problem is partly down to shortsighted workforce planning which saw training posts cut in the past, meaning there aren’t enough home grown nurses coming through the system,” he said.
In 2012, Nursing Times revealed nurse training places across England had been cut by more than 2,500 in the prior three years. London saw the largest drop, with 16% fewer course places in that time, meaning less nurses would graduate between 2014 and 2015.
“Most importantly, the ongoing pay freeze imposed by the government means that nursing staff increasingly just can’t afford to live and work in London. Pay has run 10% below inflation since 2010,” added Mr Bussue.
He called for the government to “urgently” increase nurse pay to encourage them to stay in the capital for longer or risk damaging patient care as a result of staff shortages.
The government announced last year that public sector workers in England would see their pay restricted to a 1% rise each year until 2020.
However, it was later revealed that this was intended to be an average increase and that the rise would be applied in a “targeted manner”, meaning some public sector workers would receive less, while others receive more.
It follows a period in which NHS nurse pay rises have already been restricted to 1%, although last year nurses on higher salaries saw their earnings frozen.
London nurse shortage ‘critical’ as vacancies rise to 10,000