High level of nursing vacancies continues as NHS Trusts struggle with patient demand

1 Jun 2018

The North of England has over 8000 nursing vacancies despite ‘struggling’ NHS Trusts fighting to meet increased patient demand.

According to latest NHS Improvement figures released this week, which paints a picture of the past 12 months (year ending 31 March 2018), there are over 35,794 vacant nursing posts across England of which 95% were filled with temporary workers – meaning £976 million more was spent on NHS bank staff than was planned. 

Regional Director for the RCN in the North West, Estephanie Dunn, said: “Whilst we have seen a very slight shift in vacancies being filled over the past year, 299 across 73 NHS Trusts across the north of England, it’s not scratching the surface when it comes to meeting employer and patient demands on nursing staff.

“It’s clear that our NHS is cash starved. Vacancies across all areas are high for numerous reasons including lack of incentive to join and remain in the profession and because Trusts can’t afford to fill vacancies with the right staff with the right skill mix. Moreover, the investment isn’t available to develop staff up to the standards required in specialist areas with the removal of funds to train nurses to work at higher and advanced levels of practice in many areas. 

“Clearly safe and effective patient care is a significant concern for our members and the RCN. Trusts are running on such tight budgets with significant gaps in staffing and skills as they struggle to recruit registered nurses from a dwindling supply locally and nationally. The physical and emotional impact on our nursing teams cannot be under estimated. The RCN is calling upon the Government to make drastic investment and eagerly awaits the Summer and Autumn Budgets.”

It should, however be noted, that five North West Trusts (Lancashire Care NHS Trust, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust and St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals NHS Trust) are reported to be performing in the top ten in terms of operational performance.

Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust also performed highly on A&E waiting times.

“The report is a mixed bag for us,” said Estephanie.

“We’re proud to have such high-performing Trusts in our region and we know how hard all of the staff work because they genuinely care about going above and beyond, regularly work longer than they’re contracted to and what to do the best for patients however this is not a healthy environment.

“Nursing staff are exhausted working under very constrained and difficult circumstances.  We’re also aware that some of our Trusts across the region are really struggling due to complex issues such as increasing and complex patient demand and staffing shortages. 

“Overall it’s not a great read for many of our Trusts and, whilst it’s not about pitching Trusts against each other due to the differences in their make-up, pressures and financial demand, the financial evidence presents a concerning picture for many of our Trusts.”


Notes to Editors


  1. The North of England in this report covers the North West and Yorkshire and Humber Regions.
  2. The data has been taken from the Performance of the NHS provider Sector for the year ended 31 March 2018.  It can be viewed in full at: https://improvement.nhs.uk/news-alerts/nhs-met-unpredecented-patient-demand-last-year/


Page last updated - 15/06/2018