Official figures indicate that the number of unfilled NHS post escalated by 10% in the last 12 months alone.
This means that tens of thousands of jobs are vacant across the NHS system.
Responding to the data, the Labour Party accused Theresa May and the Conservative government of taking the whole service for granted, effectively overseeing “an unprecedented workforce crisis in the NHS”.
In March this year, there were 30,613 vacant full-time NHS positions being advertised, compared to 26,424 in the same month in 2016, and 26,406 in 2015.
And nursing has been particularly hard hit, with 40% of vacancies in March 2017 being for nursing and midwifery positions.
Janet Davies, head of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), warned that “NHS staffing levels are reaching crisis point”.
“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. A lethal cocktail of factors is resulting in too few nurses and patient care is suffering. The Government desperately needs to keep the experienced staff still working in the NHS,” Davies commented.
The climate in nursing is underlined by the fact that the nursing profession has threatened to strike for the first time in NHS history over staff shortages and pay.
This has been strongly supported by the Royal College of Nursing, which has described the government’s decision to retain a 1% pay freeze for NHS staff as a “bitter disappointment”.
Meanwhile, Justin Madders, Labour’s shadow health minister, said a repeat of last winter’s chaotic scenes, with A&E patients lined up on trolleys in corridors to be seen, “is simply intolerable”.
“For years the Tories have taken NHS staff for granted and asked them to do more for less, resulting in a recruitment and retention crisis which threatens patient care on a daily basis. Frankly the Government’s solution of hiring expensive agency staff or asking hard-pressed existing staff to cover extra shifts is not in the best of interests of patients or medical professionals,” Madders asserted.
And Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary Norman Lamb largely concurred with this credit.
“The NHS is finding it harder and harder to recruit the staff it needs, yet still this government is refusing to end years of cuts to pay”.
Responding to this criticism, a Department of Health spokesperson outlined the effort is that the authorities have made to improve the situation in the NHS.
“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.”
But Dr Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, believes that’s the 1% pay cut must be removed if the situation is to significantly improve.
“Removing the pay cap on NHS staff, particularly the lowest paid, is long overdue, while the extra pressure on overworked frontline staff to meet targets must be eased. This data shows it is high time we saw steps taken to stop disincentivising staff – salaries must be fair, working conditions must be safe and sustainable and clear career pathways must be in place.”