A “continuing crisis” of nurse recruitment in the NHS in Wales has been revealed after new figures found almost 1,250 vacancies across the country.
Across all seven health boards, Aneurin Bevan had the largest number of vacancies, with 260 whole-time equivalent posts empty, representing around 7% of its establishment.
According to the data – collected by Plaid Cymru via a Freedom of Information Request – Cardiff and Vale had 189 WTE nurse jobs open, equal to around 5% of its overall establishment.
“There clearly needs to be greater investment in training and in attracting people into the profession who have left”
Health boards Betsi Cadwaladr and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg each had around 250 vacant posts and Hywel Dda had more than 200.
Cwm Taf had around 80 unfilled WTE posts and Powys had five on 11 September, the day the data was collected from the boards.
Some health boards noted the vacancy rate provided only a “snapshot”, as some nurses had been offered jobs but had not yet taken up posts.
Meanwhile, health boards only recruited a handful of nurses over the last three years from outside the European Union – with some making no applications at all – owing to tighter visa rules, according to the FOI data.
Plaid Cymru’s shadow health minister Elin Jones said the figures showed a lack of workforce planning and called for more measures to convert temporary workers into permanent positions, and to attract nurses back into the profession.
“There must be less reliance on agency nurses and this can be done by the recruitment of more permanent staff. Safe levels of staffing are essential at all times,” said Ms Jones.
She added: “There clearly needs to be greater investment in training and in attracting people into the profession who have left for a variety of reasons, including starting families.”
“In times of austerity, there is a real danger that health care providers will look to reduce staffing as a means of achieving short-term savings”
The Royal College of Nursing Wales said the figures described a “continuing crisis” in nurse recruitment.
Tina Donnelly, director of RCN Wales, warned that health bodies might be considering reducing nurse staffing due to financial concerns.
“In times of austerity, there is a real danger that healthcare providers will look to reduce staffing as a means of achieving short-term savings – but without consideration of the long-term costs or risk to patient care,” she said.
“We don’t want to continue down this road of new changes implemented frequently because of the lack of workforce planning. The RCN in Wales would like to see a comprehensive vision for the NHS for 10 years which focuses on workforce planning with specific investment in recruitment and training,” she added.
Earlier this year health minister for Wales Mark Drakeford announced that the number of qualified nurses working in the Welsh NHS had topped 22,000 for the first time.
The number of WTE registered nurses increased from 21,686 in 2011 to 22,070 in February of this year.
It followed a decision by the minister to boost the number of student nurse places in Wales by 22% in 2015-16, with an £80m investment.