Further evidence of NHS recruitment crisis as vacancies skyrocket

pharmafile | July 25, 2017 | News story | Medical Communications, Research and Development NHS, biotech, drugs, midwifery, nursing, pharma, pharmaceutical 

Data released by NHS Digital rings a very worn bell regarding levels of staff employed and recruited the NHS, as it points to a further drop in applicant numbers and vacancies. The data revealed that total vacancies had risen to 86,055 full- time positions during the first quarter of the year, up from 78,112 in the same period last year, with 11,485 positions of these being in nursing and midwifery.

Figures from previous years show that the number of vacancies has grown from 9,784 positions in the previous year. The availability of the nurse and midwifery positions only gathered an average of three applications per post.

This is especially worrying when combined with previous reports that found a 96% drop in nursing registering to work in the UK after the Brexit referendum and that the service could soon be hit by high levels of staff retirement.

In effect, this is a calamitous combination of two issues – the difficulty the service is having in both recruitment and retention of staff. Within recruitment, there is the issue of the training of new nurses and the government has not helped its cause after the pledge to increase places on nursing courses was not followed through by the government.

The promise, made by George Osborne, had been to axe nurse bursaries and use the money saved, £800 million, to provide extra funding for universities to open up more places. At the end of last month, however, universities revealed that they had not been able to open up more placements as they had received no additional funding to make this happen.

Royal College of Nursing Chief Executive Janet Davies said: “When the NHS is struggling without enough staff to provide safe care, extra effort is needed to bring more nursing staff through training. Despite Government promises, the number of training places has not increased and student interest has fallen dramatically. The low pay in the profession – kept below inflation by the 1 % cap – means most students will never earn enough to repay the large loans. The move makes university seem out of reach for too many potential nurses at a time when they are needed most.”

The pressure the services are under, in terms of recruitment, will only become more acute as the full ramifications of Brexit are felt. The government is in a position now where it must make more funds available to recruitment and retention available but still continues to be struggle to maintain costs of the NHS to a manageable level.

Ben Hargreaves

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