By Jasmin Gray
Almost 87,500 NHS roles were vacant in England during the first three months of 2018, new data has revealed.
Statistics published by NHS Digital on Thursday showed that 87,478 job adverts were posted on the NHS England recruitment website between 1 January and 31 March – a jump of 1,444 roles compared to the same period in 2017.
More than 10,000 vacant medical and dental posts were publicised, while unfilled nursing and midwifery roles accounted for nearly 40% of the vacancies, with 34,726 posts advertised in just three months.
Royal College of Nursing chief executive Janet Davies said the figures show “there just aren’t enough nurses to provide safe care”.
Calling on the government to use the recently-announced NHS funding deal to “bring on the next generation of nurses”, Davies described the data as “worrying”.
“The number of vacant posts for nurses and midwives has increased more than those for any other type of clinical staff, with almost 35,000 vacant posts for nurses and midwives advertised in the first three months of this year, an increase of 1800 on the previous year,” she said.
“We also know that not all vacant nurse jobs are even advertised in the current climate, so these figures will be an under-estimate.”
On Wednesday, think-tank The Health Foundation branded nursing vacancies “one of the biggest risks facing the NHS”, with figures from the organisation suggesting that seven in 10 people think the UK should continue to recruit nurses from the EU post-Brexit.
Meanwhile, Health Education North West was revealed to have the highest number of vacancies, with 11,881 unfilled roles during the first quarter of the year.
The vacancy figures come amid an £8m NHS recruitment drive – the biggest in the health service’s history.
More than 1.2 million people currently work for the health service in England.
The government said the figures should be “treated with caution” as there is no uniform approach to counting vacancies across NHS trusts.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We want to make sure we continue to attract and retain the very best for our outstanding NHS.
“We are listening to staff and have encouraged more flexible working, boosted training places and given over a million NHS employees a thoroughly-deserved pay rise.”