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Commenting on the NHS Digital vacancy statistics for England released today, Anita Charlesworth, Director of Research and REAL Centre at the Health Foundation, said:

‘Today’s figures point to a deepening NHS workforce crisis, with both overall and nursing vacancy numbers at a 5-year high. The NHS workforce is under extreme pressure – the ongoing impact of Covid and a lack of resource across the health and care system leaves staff with a sense that they cannot deliver the high-quality care they would want for their patients. These pressures put staff at risk of burnout, sickness and early retirement. Ongoing disputes about pay, terms and conditions have brought these issues into even sharper focus and will create further anxiety for patients and staff.

‘Data released by the Nursing and Midwifery Council earlier this week also point to the UK relying heavily on international recruitment to plug workforce gaps. Nearly half of the nurses and midwives joining the NMC’s permanent register in the six months to September were trained abroad. Particularly worrying is the scale of recruitment from ‘red list’ countries, such as Nigeria and Ghana, countries which experience significant workforce shortages of their own. We need to look beyond the quick fix of international recruitment.

‘The government needs to take urgent action to address these issues and that includes setting out how we will train, recruit and retain the right workforce for the NHS now and in the future. A long-term workforce plan has never been more desperately needed.’

Media contact

Creina Linburne
T: 020 7664 4647 / mobile: 07941 156 827

Further detail about the NHS Digital statistics

  • The latest NHS Vacancy Statistics show that overall, full-time equivalent (FTE) staff vacancies in NHS trusts in England increased from around 133,100 in the quarter to June 2022 to around 133,400 in the quarter to September 2022. This represents a 5-year high (data are not available prior to the quarter from April – June 2017). The overall vacancy rate in the quarter to September 2022 stood at 9.7%, the same as in the previous quarter – this is also a 5-year high.
  • FTE nursing vacancies also increased from around 47,200 in the quarter to June 2022 to around 47,500 in the quarter to September 2022. They accounted for over a third (36%) of all vacancies in the quarter to September 2022. At 11.9%, the nursing vacancy rate in the quarter to September 2022 was close to its pre-pandemic high of 12.3% (in the quarter to June 2019)

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