The RCN has warned that a new increase in nursing vacancy rates will put profession under ‘unsustainable pressure’.
Latest NHS Information Centre data shows an increase in total nursing and midwifery vacancies in England, and also the number of long-term nursing vacancies.
RCN general secretary Peter Carter said: ‘The figures are worrying as they show that long-term nursing vacancies are rising for the first time in five years.
‘While we are concerned about long-term vacancies, even unfilled short-term vacancies leave nurses under unsustainable pressure and, with higher workloads, too busy to provide the standard of care they would like,’ he said.
Mr Carter added: ‘Unfortunately, the statistics are likely to mask the real picture of even higher vacancies. If a trust does not “actively” recruit for a post then they do not declare it vacant and it isn’t counted in the vacancy data.’
Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the RCM, said the data represented ‘some good news and some bad news’ for midwifery.
‘The overall increase in vacancy rates may suggest there are more midwifery jobs available but employers are struggling to fill them.
‘It could also mean that more midwives are leaving a service suffering from very heavy workloads,’ she said.
In response, health minister Ann Keen said: ‘Across most staff groups vacancy rates continue to be low at around 2%. The number of longer term vacancies show a slight rise on last year but remain lower than 2006 or before.
‘The extra clinical staff and low vacancy rates are key to the high quality care the NHS provides to patients,’ she said. ‘The focus now is on improving productivity through smarter working practices and ensuring staff have the support that they need to continue to deliver effective and efficient services.’