Official figures released reveal that in March NHS England advertised to fill more than 30,000 vacant full-time positions. This is a huge increase of over 26,000 on March in 2016 and has led Janet Davies, Head of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to describe NHS staffing levels as “reaching crisis point”.
Ms Davies went on to say: “At the very moment the NHS needs to be recruiting more nursing staff, we learn the number is falling and the NHS finds itself advertising for more jobs we know it cannot fill.”
Meanwhile representatives from the opposition Labour party are warning that Prime Minister Theresa May could be on course to oversee a repeat of last year’s winter chaos. Last winter A&E departments were filled with patients enduring long waiting times and had to be queued up on trolleys while waiting to be seen. Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary has said: “The public is under no illusions: a repeat of last winter’s crisis is simply intolerable and Theresa May must now take urgent action to secure a sustainable workforce in our NHS.”
The Department of Health has responded by emphasising the good news: “Staffing is a priority – that’s why we have invested in the frontline and there are almost 32,400 more professionally qualified clinical staff including almost 11,800 more doctors, and over 12,500 more nurses on our wards since May 2010,” said a department spokesperson.
Meanwhile the campaign group, Keep Our NHS, says that the government’s effort: “doesn’t address this massive, increasing and rapidly unsafe problem”, adding the NHS is “falling apart, post by vacant post and budget deficit after deficit”.
This huge increase in the number of NHS vacancies is revealed as England’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals warns of the “threat” to the NHS posed by Brexit. Brexit could leave the NHS with a deeper struggle to fill vacant positions as doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers leave the UK.