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RCN warns of 'unsustainable' pressure on nursing


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.’


Readers' comments (8)

  • Am I missing something? Read the first part of this item and then read Ann Keen's bit at the end - are they from the same article? More worrying is the fact that this is the woman to whom we are supposed to be offering our ideas for 'innovation' (how I hate that word) to carry the NHS forward.
    Listen up, Ann, people are leaving in droves and most of those left are demoralised and knackered trying to do the work left by the unfilled vacancies. No amount of corporate-speak is going to make the pain go away.

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  • I agree with this anonymous comment.
    First of all, I would love to see the ward with a 2% vacancy rate. I want to work there in fact, although with a 2% vacancy rate this clearly isn't going to happen.
    Secondly, I see Ann Keen is waffling about productivity. Yes, that old chestnut. Any team that has been involved in Productive Ward (which was designed to face just such an issue) knows that it takes a lot of time, effort and resources. You cant simply say to people 'work like this' or 'do this this differently'. People need to provided with the right tools to make change.
    Bottom line is, Government wants us to do more, with less staff. Vacancies are rising while pre-reg training budgets are cut.

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  • I agree with the previous comments. ...and they now expect us to help out the junior doctors whose working hours have dropped so low it is expected they will not gain enough experience to become consultants. The next few years will see a large percentage of the nursing workforce retiring. Where are we going? Why will no-one listen to us, 'the workforce.' The NHS needs to be in the hands of the workforce. The 'business' fraternity have had their say and have very little to show for it.

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  • I have every sympathy with this. We receive many reports from frustrated nurses and patients and there seems to be little real understanding of the stress and pressures they face on a daily basis. This situation is not good for anyone's health.

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  • This really takes the ****!!!!!! All throughout my training all I heard about was jobcuts and job freezes. Newly qualified staff have struggled, and are still struggling to find jobs.

    Meanwhile staff who have jobs are vastly overworked and undernumbered, then these idiots in charge wonder how they will cope with rising vacancies?

    I really do despair of the profession if people like this are in charge. We really do not stand a chance do we?

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  • As a Lecturer in Nursing and Health Care I find it criminal that we are educating people to be qualified nurses to work in nursing careers when there are no jobs for them when they qualify. Out of the latest group to qualify foe this September, one of my personal students has a job and that is because they are going overseas. All the others have not got employment yet. On the other hand when I am working out in the clinical area, I am working with staff who cannot get the job done properly because there is not enough staff to cover the shifts. Moral is at its lowest and sickness levels are high and the college is recruiting more student to the profession. If student numbers are supposed to be based on workforce planning then we need to sack the planner as incompetent!!!!!!

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  • Im a student, and i think what is said in the article is a lot of rubbish. lots vacancies? where? we all know that the government is cutting down the number of staff to save money. the remaining staff in hospitial will just have to do 2 person's job.

    vacancies that are out there are only looking for people with experience not these new graduates! less training needed so money is cut down too! what are we newbies gonna do?

    I know a student who got 1st class honours didnt even get an interview for a job. others are working in restaurants and bars, those that are lucky got jobs in NURSING HOMES to earn money to feed family.

    the uk doesnt treasure their nurses, move to some place better like austrillia

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  • 1st class honours is NO sign they can do the job!
    Thankfully, there are some managers around who see the person and not just the qualifications on paper.

    ...back to the point in question... yes... as many others have said before me, staff are running are lowest levels doing more and more until the staff 'snap' and go off sick and add to the horrendous sickness figures....

    ... then the Government can judge us on our ability to smile :-(

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