Why Are Nursing Vacancies Continuing To Rise?
In the last year, nursing vacancies have increased by nearly 2,000 posts, causing further concerns around the profession. With nursing degree applications falling as well, it’s a worrying time for the future of nursing. What is behind the rise in nursing vacancies and is there anything that can be done to remedy it?
What are the current nursing vacancy figures?
There are currently 40,877 unfilled roles in NHS England, which equates to 11.6% of roles. While there have been slight decreases in the number of nursing vacancies in recent months, the figures remain high compared to the previous year. Around 80% of nursing roles are filled by either agency staff (36%) and bank staff (64%).
There are also some regional variations on the figures. In London, the number of nursing vacancies is at 12.7%, but in the North of England, the number is just 1.1%.
Nursing vacancies ‘a challenge’
The report was conducted by NHS Improvement, who admit that the numbers pose a ‘challenge’. Importance is being placed on retaining staff and reducing temporary staffing. With unfilled shifts causing a problem, a lot of money is being spent on plugging gaps to ensure services can run.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing has called on the UK Government find ‘a sustainable way’ to tackle staff shortages as part of its 10-year plan to improve the NHS.
The number of nursing vacancies poses a risk to patients as the winter season begins in earnest. The first reports highlight a shortage of beds that can’t be resolved because of the shortages in the number of nurses. With a chance of severe weather over the coming weeks, this could cause some serious issues for patients during the winter period.
Why are nursing vacancies continuing to rise
There has been a lot of attention paid to the number of nursing vacancies that currently exist in England this year. In addition to the rising vacancies, there has been a decline in the number of nursing applications at universities. The NHS has also spent a lot of money on a major nursing recruitment drive this year, so why are the numbers continuing to rise?
There are several possible reasons for the number of nursing vacancies. In terms of applications for universities, a lack of funding following the end of the NHS bursary has been a significant factor. Many undergraduate and postgraduate nurses are unable to afford to complete their studies as they struggle to juggle study time, working shifts and part time jobs.
Concerns around pay have long been a factor for nurses leaving the profession. The pressures of working in a fast-paced and demanding NHS front line is culminating in many nurses leaving their roles. Meanwhile, Brexit is also having a serious impact on the number of EU nurses remaining in the UK. In the last year, 4,000 nurses have left the UK, with only 800 taking their places. There are fears that these numbers will increase significantly after Brexit, leading to problems for the NHS.
With another challenging winter expected this year, bodies like the RCN are calling on the Government to make some changes which it is hoped will address the ongoing shortages of staff. Other incentives such as highlighting the benefits of becoming a nurse could also help more people look to starting a career as a nurse.
Working out of hours can provide an alternative to the existing pressures of working on the front line in hospitals. Working in primary care centres, which provide a different pace and the opportunity for more stability around shift patterns could provide you with a welcome change. If this sounds appealing to you, you can find out more about what it’s like to work out of hours and browse the latest job vacancies here.