Every region of England sees rise in nurse vacancies over last year – Nursing Times

‘This is a situation that cannot go on indefinitely’
25 November, 2021 By
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New data has revealed a further “sharp rise” in the number of nurse vacancies in the NHS in England, as the government is once again urged to take action.
Latest figures published today by NHS Digital showed, as of September 2021, there were 39,813 nurse vacancies across the health service, with almost 26,000 of those from within acute settings and more than 11,000 in mental health.
“These figures should act as yet another wake-up call to ministers to the reality of the nursing workforce crisis”
Patricia Marquis
The overall shortage of nurses is up by more than 2,600 vacancies (7%) since the same time last year.
It is also a 2% rise on the last workforce vacancies dataset from June 2021.
The Royal College of Nursing has warned that these latest figures “should act as yet another wake-up call to ministers to the reality of the nursing workforce crisis”.
When broken down into settings, as of September 2021, there were 25,892 nurse vacancies in acute settings, 11,106 in mental health and 1,872 within NHS community services. There was also a shortage of 843 specialist nurses.
London remains the region in England with the highest nurse shortages, with 9,445 empty nurse posts – up by almost 2% on the same time last year.
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In fact, every region across England had seen an increase in the number of nurse vacancies from September 2020 to September 2021.
The South West saw the biggest percentage increase with vacancies soaring by 31% over the 12 months.
Meanwhile, the East of England recorded a rise of 22% over the same time period, and the South East saw a 14% increase in empty nurse posts.
The North West saw nurse vacancies rise by 3%, the Midlands by 3.5% and North East and Yorkshire by 1%.
Responding to the data, RCN director for England, Patricia Marquis, said: “These figures, including a sharp rise in the number of nursing vacancies since this time last year, should act as yet another wake-up call to ministers to the reality of the nursing workforce crisis.”
The figures come shortly after the government rejected a workforce planning amendment to the new Health and Care Bill, that would have required publication of “independently verified” assessments for current and future workforce numbers.
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“Just days after ministers refused to take responsibility, we learn what is really happening and it gives extra cause for concern,” Ms Marquis added.
“We have already seen an increase in the number of nursing staff leaving the profession and many more are considering doing the same.”
She warned that pressures on staff were “not sustainable and patient care is at risk”.

Patricia Marquis. Image credit: Gareth Harmer
“Government must now show it is committed to building a sustainable domestic nursing workforce and retaining the experienced nurses,” added Ms Marquis, who stressed that this should “start by delivering a proper pay rise” to the profession.
Also responding, chief executive of NHS Employers, Danny Mortimer, said the figures reflected “how much the situation has worsened in recent months”.
“Many staff are exhausted after many years of taking on extra work and filling gaps because there are simply not enough staff to go round and meet the healthcare needs of our population,” he added.
Against a backdrop of the millions of people now waiting for elective care, alongside continued demands across other health settings, Mr Mortimer called on the government to “explain to the public the impact that the gaps in our teams and rotas will unfortunately have on the experience of patients and their families”.
In addition to the NHS vacancy data, NHS workforce statistics for August 2021 have been published by NHS Digital today.
Figures show that, as of August 2021, there were 310,935 nurses and health visitors working in the English NHS – up by 3% in August 2020 when there were 301,326 nurses and health visitors in post.
While the data showed that many fields of nursing had seen an increase in the workforce, there was a decline in the number of learning disability nurses, from 3,206 in August 2020 to 3,094 in August 2021 (-3.5%).
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid has celebrated what he described as “record” nurse numbers across the English NHS and said it was “brilliant to see more people starting a career in healthcare”.

Sajid Javid
“All healthcare professionals are working incredibly hard, and I want to thank them for their enormous efforts,” he added.
When approached for a response to concerns raised about nursing vacancies in the NHS, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson repeated that there were now “record” numbers of nurses in the NHS.
They added that the government was “committed to recruiting and retaining more talented staff, alongside delivering 50,000 more nurses in our NHS”.
In addition, they said that the recently announced move to merge Health Education England into NHS England showed the government had “made clear its intention to embed long-term planning and strategy for healthcare staff in the centre of the national NHS agenda”.
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