Thousands of nursing vacancies go unfilled in east of England

Nurse checking female patient's pulse on wrist, close-up. Photo: ThinkStock

Nurse checking female patient's pulse on wrist, close-up. Photo: ThinkStock - Credit: Getty Images

Thousands of vacancies for registered nursing and midwifery posts in the east of England are not being filled, new NHS figures show.

Statistics from NHS Digital revealed between April 1 to June 30 last year there were 3,496 jobs advertised in the Health Education East of England region - but only 349 staff appointed.

This means only 10pc of advertised posts were filled.

The most recent figures available on vacancies alone – covering July 1 to September 30 – show 3,615 vacancies advertised for nursing and midwifery posts in the east of England.

The figures come after reports last week revealed a large number of nurses leaving the NHS, prompting concern about the future of the workforce in the face of growing patient demand.

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Teresa Budrey, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) eastern regional director, said: 'These figures give us great cause for concern as they are further proof that the NHS is desperately short of nurses.

'It is no wonder that hospitals are buckling under the strain caused by winter pressures given that the NHS is struggling to fill these vital nursing posts.

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'Years of pay restraint have had a devastating impact on nurse morale and the ability of the NHS to recruit and retain nursing staff. In turn, this impacts on patient safety.

'The Government must act quickly by investing in its nursing staff – one of the health service's most valuable assets – and recognising the vital job they do.'

At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King's Lynn chief nurse Emma Hardwick said they were keen to attract nurses from the Philippines and India. And they had a number of initiatives in place to retain nurses.

Ms Hardwick said: 'The hospital is also taking part and running a number of open days to encourage newly qualified and registered nursing staff to join us. We held an open day in the autumn which proved to be successful.

'We are also supporting the recently launched Love West Norfolk campaign, which is promoting the benefits of living in this area, across the country.'

At the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH), in Gorleston, said there were more ways to get into nursing now than before.

She said: 'Recruitment is key and it is still an issue and it is a problem with our trust. Being on the east coast is good because the workforce is less transient, that's positive in one respect. But then we've got to attract people to come here too.'

She said this meant making sure there were opportunities to progress and flourish.

And she also said it was about being more flexible and talking to nurses about how they find it best to work.

Director of workforce at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Jeremy Over, said: 'Recruitment and retention is going well, the number of registered nurses we employ has increased by over a hundred compared with a year ago and is currently the largest it has ever been.

'We have been less reliant on international recruitment in comparison with some other hospitals due to the excellent relationship we have with the University of East Anglia – we are the most popular place for UEA nursing graduates to come and work. In addition to this rich supply of new nursing talent we also undertake regional and national recruitment, and currently have a project to recruit a small number of nurses from outside of the UK.

'Our focus on retention covers many aspects of what it's like to work here including access to flexible rostering, training and education, rotation and promotion. The size of our organisation means that many such opportunities exist and there are countless examples of nurses developing new skills and extending their professional practice to provide the best patient care.'

Anna Morgan, director of nursing and quality at NCHC said: 'Now is the best time to choose a career in nursing. We have introduced a career pathway through an apprenticeship route for those people that didn't have the opportunity to go straight to university to become a nurse.

'We have very motivated, highly skilled staff who can become a nurse in either two years or four years depending on their experience and a new opportunity to join our trust to become a nurse while learning on the job. I started my career as a cadet nurse at 17 and would still thoroughly recommend it.'

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