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Latest workforce data reveals scale of nursing jobs being advertised

  • 23 Comments
  • New data from NHS Digital shows 29,000 full-time equivalent job adverts for nurses in first three months of 2016
  • More than 9,000 registered nurse and midwife roles were advertised each month on the NHS Jobs website
  • Year on year there were 3,300 more WTE nursing staff working in the NHS in May, data reveals

There were at least 29,000 jobs advertised for registered nurses and midwives in the NHS during the first three months of 2016, new data has revealed.

The number of vacancies being advertised gives an indication of the demand for nursing staff across England and follows record levels of substantive nurse recruitment since the publication of the Francis report in 2013.

“Demand from patients is rising faster and this is reflected in these vacancy figures”

Lara Carmona

Meanwhile, the latest workforce data, newly published by NHS Digital, shows whole-time equivalent nursing staff employed in the NHS at its highest ever level for the month of May (see below).

The new vacancy data, also from NHS Digital, shows there were 29,251 adverts for WTE nurses and midwives on the NHS Jobs website between 1 January and 31 March this year. Month by month, there were between 9,000 and 10,000 adverts for registered nurses and midwives in this period.

For comparison, the total current nursing, midwifery and health visitor workforce is currently around 300,000 – although the job advert data does not cover health visiting.

NHS Digital has said the data should be treated with caution, and that the true number of vacancies was likely to be higher.

The next largest group for vacancies across the first three months of the year was administrative and clerical staff with 17,510 adverts. This was followed by 9,369 adverts for medical and dental staff.

Anita Charlesworth

Anita Charlesworth

Anita Charlesworth

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said the level of vacancies was “really worrying”, but she warned against viewing the workforce simply in terms of headcount. She said the number of nurses per bed day and per finished consultant episode fell in 2011-12.

“That fall proved to be unsustainable because alongside rising activity we are seeing increased acuity,” she said. “So I don’t think we have unprecedented nursing levels when you consider the volume and complexity of healthcare we are delivering.

“If you reduce average length of stay the period in hospital is much more intensive, so you would expect nursing input to rise and actually that would be a system efficiency, because having patients lying around in beds when they don’t need care reduces the amount of nursing input but isn’t very efficient,” she added.

Ms Charlesworth said the NHS “undoubtedly” needed more permanent staff because of both the direct and indirect costs of agency staff.

“We need a much more sophisticated understanding of nursing input. Staffing is our biggest cost and our biggest asset and providers need to have proper data on how they use the workforce,” she said.

Monthly data on the total number of adverts across England since April 2015 shows the number of adverts each month peaked at 29,602 in July 2015 – but overall has remained roughly stable since the data collection began in February 2015. The figures do not include vacancy data for GPs or practice staff.

Regarding its vacancy data, NHS Digital said: “The only accurate statement remains that the number of advertised vacancy full-time equivalents shows the minimum number of vacancies advertised. Because of the differences in practice between different organisations and across different staff groups it is not possible to state the precise level of undercounting, but it is possible to say that it will vary for different staff groups.

“For example, the undercount for nurses is likely to be greater than for other staff because of the high level of rolling adverts used for that group, and also the advertising of vacancies directly to audiences overseas which will not be undertaken through NHS Jobs,” it noted.

Meanwhile, the most recent official NHS workforce data, covering the month of May, shows whole-time equivalent nursing staff at its highest ever level. It continues a trend which began following the publication of the Francis report in 2013, which has seen sustained year-on-year increases in nurse staffing.

In May 2016 there were 284,652 full-time equivalent nurses and health visitors working in the NHS, which was 3,300 more than in the same month in 2015.

Lara Carmona, associate director of policy at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “While there are signs of growth in overall workforce numbers, demand from patients is rising faster and this is reflected in these vacancy figures. We also know that this overall workforce number masks a reduction in the numbers of many nursing specialities.

“The health service is desperately trying to play catch up thanks to a lack of a comprehensive workforce strategy and pressure for finance driven cuts. We’re hearing that trusts want to provide safe staffing but too often there are simply not enough nurses to recruit,” she said.

“The government, Health Education England and health service providers need a long term, sustainable workforce strategy, which includes enough nurses to ensure patient safety and provide quality care and support,” she added.

  • 23 Comments

Readers' comments (23)

  • Well I am shocked by this...NOT
    Nurses are leaving the profession in droves and many of the ones left are burntout...i for one am sick of working with unsafe staffing, and what is managements attitude oh well it's like that everywhere...I am physically and mentally exhausted I can't think of any other job that expects you to work such long hours in unsafe environments with no thought to our physical and mental wellbeing had I known nursing was going to be like this I never would have done it.

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  • I couldn't agree more with the above comment... It's about time we stopped being yes people and stood up and had our voices heard. The saying todays favour becomes tomorrow's expectation springs to mind!

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  • Surprise surprise. nurses are being left to manage unsafe number of patients with no support. If an incident were to happy the NMC would be quick to chastise the nurse not the situation they were forced to work in. But then again, the NMC probably would not hear about such an incident because the trust is struggling to find staff.

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  • NMC is quick to discipline Nurses. Hence, the decline of them. More NHS Nurses are quitting now to do agency jobs. They prefer less stress & high pay rates.
    If NMC & the government care less, so do they. That's the trend now. Next......

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  • It's the same in Australia.
    Management is hellbent on automating to the point of insanity and thus jeopardise both patient and nurse safety, all in the egocentric goal of providing their self-centred pay rises.
    Nurses are overworked, overlooked, and over stressed through no fault of their own but due to the system that monetises care without a thought for humane care.
    What a world we live in where the most important of professions are treated this way.
    Nurses leave and will continue to do so if this insanity continues.
    You simply can't have your cake and eat it too.
    The sooner a new breed of management comes to the fore, backed by political and industrial will, may hopefully rid the healthcare system of these parasitic antiquated financial regimes strategised by bean counters and self-serving individuals that have no place in an industry that is meant to serve the most vulnerable and support comprehensively those that serve them - nurses.
    Nurses should be paid tenfold for starters and yet, at least over here, you could earn more holding a traffic sign. Hardly makes sense does it?
    Good luck to those that are left. I stand with you.

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  • Compare the treatment of nurses - pay freeze, ignored, undervalued and exploited, constantly threatened by the NMC with that of junior doctors - huge pay rise on offer, full ministerial attention, full backing of the GMC, full media attention and it says it all.

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  • We need to follow the doctors out on strike

    Otherwise we will continue to be ignored and will continue to leave nursing and midwifery

    In my time in nursing I have over the last few years began to witness nurses leaving to do other jobs

    They are doing anything to escape

    Please RCN wake up and defend us

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  • Ditto Simon! Trained in England 30 years ago & now in Australia for 16 years & working as a RMHN, the job itself has got worse with too many managers implementing policies & expecting us to conform to the standards at the expense of the patients & yet complain about us spending too long in the office doing the documentation & paperwork & other stuff online which they have created to "maintain a high standard" & "quality" of care!! Give us a break!! And yet at the first signs of trouble or complaints by patients, we are guilty till proven innocent and hauled up in front of upper management to account for our behaviour.
    And that's not all....there are no permanent contracts hence minimal senior staff on the shop floor with predominantly junior staff previously grad nurses, bless them, who lack the expertise & experience especially with the difficult patients that present. A disaster waiting to happen....I may be wrong.
    Lack of support is more than evident with scapegoating or so called "accountability".

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  • I escaped into Occupational Health which has its own issues mainly around funding for training and whether the NMC have the faintest idea of our job role. Can we complete the new revalidation process that sort of thing, not if like me you are a lone worker, but other than that it's great. I would NEVER go back to nursing either on the district, or in a hospital. I'd rather work on the tills in my local supermarket.

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  • The above have said it well and the message is getting through.

    1. We are now driven by false behavioural performance entitled as QI, which ignores context of environmental and staff safety. And well-being based on burn out rather than bad management causation. Never have so many lean/ Kanban/ waterfall/ scrum/ agile false batching experts have been employed in guise of workforce HR roles which judge everything, labels dissenters but gives absolutely nothing.

    2. Brainwashing of minimal staff nos,under auspices of cult transformational and Carter which is an insult to true transformational movements and numbers needed.

    3. Cost cutting and lean (american based on a VM hospital that failed a reason safety check and got gov investigated) rubbish leaving wards/units bare, causing greater hidden revolving door syndrome and ignores issues of low staff numbers.

    4. Agendas serving greedy narcissistic. CEOs in guise of CEO serving action listening type groups which listen to no one but love rubbish slogans like 'the CEO can solve it' , not when they are part of the problem.

    5. Greater suspicion of CQC and NHS Improvment unable to accurately feedback on how bad NHS Management are; perhaps uninterested on bad behaviour of management which could be deemed potentially criminal.

    6. The NMC has never been so unpopular and seen as gov influenced by many nurses. They seem to promote a behavioural approach and not understand the conditions and are led by pseudo lawyers.

    7. Corporate pseudo education of nurses leaving them unprepared and potentially brainwashed.

    The nonsense is piled high and frontline can not speak up or out in face of unemployment or retaliation of a vile kind. Nursing is great but a business model that protects money grabbing hostile senior management is obvious and if the NHS is to survive in greater floor numbers then they must be the first to go without any retirement package or compensation. The let them eat cake mentality be senior management has not gone unnoticed.. and as for you Jeremy Hunt and the civil service hiding behind you - please just go there are those of us who know.who you are.

    The reason to why nurses and frontline staff are leaving is pretty easy to see

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