Trust with 500 nursing vacancies considers filling roles with other staff

A trust with about 500 nursing vacancies has said it is considering filling some nursing roles with other staff, such as pharmacists or physiotherapists
University Hospitals of Leicester

A trust with about 500 nursing vacancies has admitted it is having difficulty recruiting and said it is considering filling some roles with staff, such as pharmacists or physiotherapists

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The number of vacant nursing posts is likely to grow, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust chief nurse Julie Smith said.

She said the priority is to ensure patients get the 'right care' as she suggested options could include having a different ratio of registered nurses on some wards.

Growing vacancy rates

'We have got a scenario where we have 500 vacancies and that is likely to grow,' Ms Smith told Health Service Journal.

She added: 'We have to make sure patients get the right care. Some of my nurses are doing tasks they don't need to do, they are cleaning bed spaces and giving out cups of tea – things other people can be trained to do.

'It might be that we replace a nurse with a pharmacist or a physiotherapist, I don't know yet. It depends on the level of care and the type of wards they are on. 

Role boundaries

'When we know what the boundaries for the nursing associates' scope of practice will be, it may be that on some of our wards, we do say we can have a different ratio of registered nurses.'

The trust said any ideas are still at the 'concept stage' and would not be brought in without the approval of regulators.

The journal also reported an email from trust chief executive John Adler to staff saying Brexit was having an effect on recruitment.

Promised increase in training places

On Tuesday, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced a 25% increase in nurse training places to boost numbers of home-grown NHS staff as the UK leaves the European Union.

He told the Conservative party conference in Manchester that the number of nursing students starting their course in England next September would be 5,000 higher than this year.  

Mr Hunt also announced an additional 5,500 nursing associates would be trained each year by 2019. He said places would increase from 2,000 in 2017 to 7,500 a year from 2019.

The Department of Health said the moves were designed to 'reduce the reliance on expensive agency nurses and overseas recruits'.

Accurate job titles 

Last month, hospitals were urged to review job titles for staff after it emerged some employers call unregistered support staff 'nurses'.

England's top nurses wrote to NHS trusts expressing concern after a study found that unregistered support workers were practising in the NHS with job titles that describe them as nurses with advanced skills.

In response to the situation at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'This worrying picture is proof that the nursing shortage is truly beginning to bite.

Brexit exacerbates staffing strain 

'Support staff on the wards are having to do nurses' work to make ends meet. It is not fair on patients or staff. The shortage is made even worse as European nurses leave, but few can live with the uncertainty during the negotiations.

'The government must increase the number of qualified nurses and give our European colleagues real assurances, not more meaningless rhetoric.'

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