Hospital leaders say the nursing shortage has been worsened by a collapse in the number of recruits from Europe, including Spain and Italy.
Ministers in the U.K re being warned of an existential workforce crisis in England's hospitals as they struggle to recruit staff for tens of thousands of nursing vacancies, with 1 in 5 nursing posts on some wards now unfilled.
According to recent NHS figures, there are around 39,000 vacancies for registered nurses in the U.K, with 1 in 10 nursing posts unfulfilled on acute wards in London and 1 in 5 nursing posts empty on mental health wards in the South - East.
Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS confederation, the group that represents NHS trusts and chief executive of NHS Employers, said NHS employers were very concerned about the "relentless demand" being placed on their teams. He said "These figures paint a picture: the NHS is still facing chronic workforce shortages, and they are getting worse, even with the recent increases in staff numbers to cover areas such as the vaccination programme" He went on to say "Although overall headcount seems to be relatively stable, there is an alarming trend across the NHS of rising levels of vacancies, with the biggest issues in nursing, and especially in acute and mental health posts. These posts urgently need to be filled to make sure our communities receive the best care possible and also to alleviate the strain our teams continue to face, against a backdrop of spiraling workloads and ever-growing backlogs of treatments.
The Royal College of Nursing say that the figures should stun ministers into taking urgent action. Director, Patricia Marquis added "After the pressures from the last 18 months we also k now that many experienced nurses are considering leaving their profession. These are skills that cannot be replaced quickly. Unless there's an urgent investment in the nursing workforce, starting with an increase in pay that reflects their skill and professionalism, and there is accountability for work force planning at ministerial level, we will be dealing with the fallout for years to come"
The NHS has pledged to increase the number of NHS nurses by 50,000 by 2025 and NHS England pledged £28m of funding in September last year to recruit nurses from overseas to help pay for accommodation, flights, and quarantine. The upfront costs of recruiting a nurse from overseas is between £10,000 - £12,000.
A department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said "We are working closely with Health Education England, NHS England, Skills for Care, and the wider sector to make sure we have staff with the right skills up and down the country. This includes retention, investing in and diversifying our training pipeline, and continuing to ethically recruit from overseas.
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