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Safe staffing concerns as nursing vacancies rise in London

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A lack of nurses could harm patient care A lack of nurses could harm patient care, says the RCN

There are more than 10,000 vacancies for nursing roles in London, according to data obtained by the Royal College of Nursing.

This is equivalent to approximately 17% of all London’s nursing positions in 2015. This figure has risen from 14% in London in 2014 and 11% in 2013. It is also significantly higher than the national average of 10%.

The Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust and Hounslow and Richmond Community Health NHS Trust had 237 and 79 vacancies respectively. This is equivalent to 20% and 25% of each organisation’s nursing workforce. South West London Mental Health NHS Trust and Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust had vacancy rates of 30% and 25% respectively as of July 2015. These were some of the largest gaps in the nursing workforce, although all but three trusts in London had vacancy rates of over 10%.

‘The problem is partly down to shortsighted workforce planning which saw training posts cut in the past, meaning there aren’t enough home grown nurses coming through the system,’ said Bernell Bussue, the RCN’s London regional director. ‘Most importantly, the ongoing pay freeze imposed by the government means that nursing staff increasingly just can’t afford to live and work in London. Pay has run 10% below inflation since 2010.’

The RCN said that shortages means employers in the London region are being forced to choose between running services short of staff, which is harmful to the quality of care patients receive, or turning to temporary agency staff and recruiting overseas, which are not cost effective.

‘The government urgently needs to give nursing staff a pay rise at a level which helps them settle in the capital for the long term, before staffing shortages start to damage the quality of care which London’s patients receive,’ added Mr Bussue.

The figures were obtained through a Freedom of Information request sent to the London trusts by the RCN.

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