NHS staff vacancies in England ‘reaches 100,000’

20 Dec 17

Doctor, nurse and support staff vacancies within the NHS in England have risen to above 100,000, according to analysis of freedom of information figures obtained by the Labour Party.

Extrapolating from data supplied by 82 of England’s 229 acute, community and mental health trusts, Labour estimated that there were nearly 43,000 vacancies for registered nurses in 2017– a rise of 0.8 percentage points over the previous year.

Vacancies for hospital and community health service doctors rose above 11,000, or 9.3%. This is an increase of 1.7 percentage points.

For all staff, the vacancy rate was estimated to have reached 9%, a rise of 0.6 percentage points.

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour shadow health secretary, said government policy such as the NHS pay cap and the ending of the NHS bursary had contributed to a “growing crisis”.

He added: “What’s more trusts are having to spend £3bn a year on temporary staff to plug the gaps, meaning money that should be going to frontline services is going on agency fees instead.

“There is now an urgent need for a sustainable, fully funded plan to get the right numbers of staff in place to keep patients safe.”

Earlier this month, Health Education England published a consultation on a health and care workforce strategy, which was backed by the Department of Health.

It contradicts Labour’s figures, and said NHS workforce vacancies have reduced as much as 15% per cent during 2016/17.

It said current NHS vacancies for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals stands at 42,000, a fall of around 2,000 from the previous year. 

The report said an additional 190,000 posts would need to be recruited by 2027 in order to meet growing demand. It laid out plans for “radical action” to retain existing staff and improve working conditions.

In November, a report by trade association NHS Providers found that a number of provider trusts were struggling to recruit and retain staff.

Policy director Saffron Cordery said the findings from Labour’s report reflected the “number one concern for leaders of NHS trusts” over staff and skills shortages.

She added: “The draft workforce strategy, published last week by Health Education England, was a sensible and constructive start to that process, but the need for action is urgent and the plans will take time to deliver.”

NHS Provider’s report called on the government to “urgently confirm the right to remain for the 60,000 EU staff working in the NHS”.

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