NHS Nursing Shortages Rife, Says Report

Report Indicates 83 Per Cent Of Trusts Lack Sufficient Nurses

16.05.2014

More than four out of five NHS Trusts in England have insufficient numbers of nurses, a new poll has indicated.

The NHS Employers Report - which represents Trust managers - found 83 per cent of the 104 respondents said they are experiencing shortages of qualified nursing staff.

Nearly half of them - 45 per cent - have sought to recruit nurses from overseas during the last year to fill the gap, with the majority focusing on European nations like Spain, Ireland and Portugal.

However, there are a number of positions that have proved persistently hard to fill and have been vacant for at least three months.

The poll found 42 organisations have between one and 50 vacant posts, 39 have between 50 and 100, and eight per cent have over 100.

Health Education England official Janice Stevens said a major part of the solution could be to persuade large numbers of former nurses to return to the profession.

She remarked: "Where Trusts do have shortages of nurses, it is often those with experience that they need most. Attracting nurses back to practice has the potential to address current shortages."

However, she noted, it is also "equally important" to dissuade current staff from leaving in the first place.

Chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Dr Peter Carter agreed that persuading former nurses to return was the quickest and most effective way to plug the gap, but said "the provision of dedicated support from employers" was vital to make a success of such initiatives.

This would include having "sufficient funding for return-to-practice programmes and suitable supervision and mentoring processes in place", he added.

Responding to the report, the Department of Health said the numbers of nurses on hospital wards is rising, with a ten per cent increase in training places this year meaning there should be more on the way.

The news of staff shortages comes just days after the NHS issued recommendations on the ratio of nurses to patients, in which it stated no nurse should have more than eight patients to look after during the daytime.

Expert Opinion
It is worrying that there are such a high percentage of Trusts facing nursing staff shortages. Patient safety has to be a priority and patients put their faith in medical professionals and trust that there are sufficient resources for the hospital to provide quality treatment and ensure careless mistakes are not made.

“It is important that any concerns over standards are carefully considered and reviewed to ensure that they always meet an adequate level.

“We see recurring cases where problems have emerged as a result of hospitals not being able to cope with the level of demand due to staff shortages and the problems of the past simply cannot be allowed to be repeated.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner