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'Lethal cocktail' of policies leading to rise in nursing vacancies

Nursing shortages make up the largest portion of NHS vacancies as figures are skyrocketing

Nursing shortages make up the largest portion of NHS vacancies, as an NHS Digital report indicates figures are skyrocketing across the board.

Statistics show there were 30,613 full-time vacancies being advertised by the NHS in March 2017, indicating a rise of more than 4,000 vacancies from the 2016 figure of 26,424.

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Dividing the numbers into different staff groups, the highest percentage was seen in the 'Nursing and Midwifery Registered' group which accounted for 38% (11,485) of total vacancies.

According to Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the true number of unfilled nursing jobs stands at 40,000, much higher than the number of vacancies currently being advertised.

‘This is a double whammy of bad news for nursing,’ Ms Davies said. ‘At the very moment the NHS needs to be recruiting more nursing staff, we learn the number is falling and the NHS finds itself advertising for more jobs we know it cannot fill.

‘A lethal cocktail of factors is resulting in too few nurses and patient care is suffering. The government desperately needs to keep the experienced staff still working in the NHS. More people are leaving nursing than joining – deterred by low pay, relentless pressure and new training costs.

READ MORE: Nurses' pay stagnates at same level since 2005

‘For the sake of patient safety, the Chancellor [Philip Hammond] must scrap the cap on pay and help to fill the tens of thousands of vacant nurse jobs. Theresa May must draw a line under this false economy and address safe staffing levels in law.’

NHS Digital also suggested the undercount for nurses is likely to be greater than for other staff groups because of the high-level of rolling adverts (adverts kept open continually) used for that staff group.

The advertising of vacancies directly to audiences overseas rather than through NHS Jobs was also attributed to the high figure. Billed as an ‘experimental’ collation of data, NHS Digital said readers should not to draw direct conclusions from the information it presents.

In 2016, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) published a survey which found 80% of midwives who were thinking of leaving the NHS would stay if they got a pay rise.

READ MORE: Lords and midwives join calls to 'scrap the pay cap'

‘Midwives are working increasingly harder and frequently working hours past their shift unpaid while their pay is plummeting in value every year so these vacancy figures comes as no surprise,’ said RCM policy director Jon Skewes.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘Staffing is a priority – that is why we have invested in the frontline and there are almost 32,400 more professionally qualified clinical staff including almost 11,800 more doctors, and over 12,500 more nurses on our wards since May 2010.’