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Nursing shortage is seriously harming services, say trust leaders

Soaring nurse vacancies and poor staff retention are our biggest worries for delivery of NHS services, admit trust chief executives
Nurses holds sign saying 'help wanted' as NHS leaders reveal staffing worries

Soaring nurse vacancies and poor staff retention are our biggest worries for delivery of NHS services, admit trust chief executives

Overstretched NHS staff are working ‘with one hand tied behind their back’ as staffing shortfalls threaten to put patient care at risk, healthcare leaders and unions have warned.

A poll of NHS leaders in England found 98% believe staff shortages will slow down the speed at which the health service can treat the 6.1 million people waiting for hospital care. And 97% of NHS trust leaders believe current workforce shortages are seriously harming services.

Nurse staffing tops trusts’ lists of workforce worries

The NHS Providers survey found a particular concern about the shortage of nurses and

Soaring nurse vacancies and poor staff retention are our biggest worries for delivery of NHS services, admit trust chief executives

Nurses holds sign saying 'help wanted' as NHS leaders reveal staffing worries
Picture: iStock

Overstretched NHS staff are working ‘with one hand tied behind their back’ as staffing shortfalls threaten to put patient care at risk, healthcare leaders and unions have warned.

A poll of NHS leaders in England found 98% believe staff shortages will slow down the speed at which the health service can treat the 6.1 million people waiting for hospital care. And 97% of NHS trust leaders believe current workforce shortages are seriously harming services.

Nurse staffing tops trusts’ lists of workforce worries

The NHS Providers survey found a particular concern about the shortage of nurses and midwives.

Respondents were asked what their biggest concerns were in their organisation. One acute trust’s deputy chief executive responded: ‘Continued vacancies across the workforce particularly in admin and clerical and nursing. 10.9% vacancies overall and 16.8% vacancies for nursing staff.’

A chief executive of another trust told the survey nursing and midwifery was their main worry.

‘Vacancy rate 17%, turnover 12%. There have been more leavers than new starters in ten of the last 12 months,’ they said.

NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery, said: ‘NHS trusts and their overstretched staff are working incredibly hard to cut waiting times against a backdrop of worryingly high numbers of COVID-19 cases in hospitals, but they’re doing this with one hand tied behind their backs.’

The latest NHS staff vacancy data from NHS Digital show there were 39,652 registered nursing vacancies in England by the end of 2021.

Health and care staffing: call for mandatory, independent needs assessments

The RCN was among more than 100 healthcare organisations that wrote to prime minister Boris Johnson urging him to amend the the Health and Care Bill to include a legal requirement for the health and social care sector to have an independent workforce assessment so it can prepare for future staffing needs.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson insisted such an amendment is not necessary, adding: ‘We have recently commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term workforce strategy and will set out the key conclusions of that work in due course,’ they said.


Failure to invest in nurses

RCN director for England Patricia Marquis said the survey results were evidence of the impact of a long-term failure to invest in the nursing workforce.

‘Only by recognising the crisis, can ministers better retain experienced nursing staff and recruit to close the gap on tens of thousands of vacancies across health and care,’ she said.


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