Hospital Dr News

New figures reveal the extent of damaging staff shortages in the NHS

The number of vacancies in the NHS has soared by 12% over the last year, according to figures released by NHS Digital.

The number of full-time equivalent posts available rose from 26,424 in March 2016 to 30,613 in March 2017 – the highest number on record.

The BMA warned that the shortages are leaving staff and services stretched thinly, with it compromising patients’ access to care.

A total of 86,035 vacancies were advertised in the first quarter of this year, underlining the large number of health professionals and other staff that NHS trusts are seeking to fill.

Furthermore, NHS Digital consider it to be an underestimation, particularly for nurses.

Dr Andrew Dearden, BMA treasurer, said: “Doctors are telling us they are struggling with unsustainable workloads to try to fill the gaps. This has a huge impact on morale, often leading to stress and burnout.

“These issues need to be urgently addressed to ensure the NHS can continue to attract and retain frontline staff and to ensure that it has the necessary resources to meet rising demand on services. Failure to do so will only compound existing recruitment problems, adding to pressure on existing staff and affect access to, and quality of, patient care.”

NHS Digital said 11,485 (38%) of the 30,613 vacancies in March were for nurses and midwives – 16% up on the 9,784 in the same month last year – and another 6,575 (21%) for administrative and clerical staff.

NHS Digital bases its figures on the number of positions advertised on NHS Jobs, the main NHS recruitment website.

This follows the recent disclosure from the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the nursing regulator, that more nurses are leaving the profession than joining it.

Dr Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the new figures “highlight the desperate situation we face in recruitment in the NHS and is a culmination of neglect from the government in a number of areas.

“This data shows it is high time we saw steps taken to stop disincentivising staff: salaries must be fair, working conditions must be safe and sustainable and clear career pathways must be in place.”

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