Royal College of Nursing comments on latest NHS Improvement performance figures

Press Release 07/03/2019

Commenting on publication of the quarterly performance of the NHS Provider Sector by NHS Improvement today, Royal College of Nursing Acting Chief Executive Dame Donna Kinnair said:

“It’s very disappointing that there are over 3,000 more nursing vacancies in the NHS in England than this time last year1, despite repeated announcements by Ministers and the bodies that run the NHS that the increasing workforce numbers is their top priority.   What’s more, the overall nursing vacancy rate of 11% announced by NHS Improvement today disguises far bigger shortages in individual areas such as mental health and learning disabilities, which are harder to recruit to. 

“The forthcoming Workforce Implementation Plan needs urgently to come up with a credible and costed proposal for increasing nurse numbers, and Ministers need to commit the resources to deliver it.   

"As a first move, we are calling on the Government to invest at least £1 billion a year into nurse higher education 2, in order to increase the size of the workforce of the future.

“The RCN is also calling for accountability for safe levels of nurse staffing to be enshrined in law”.


  1. At this point last year (Q3, 2017/18), the number of vacant nursing posts was 35,934, a vacancy rate of 10.2%.  Today’s figures for the same period a year later have increased to 39,148, a vacancy rate of 11%

  2. Funding reforms have meant that since 2017, students studying nursing no longer receive a bursary and instead take out student loans to cover their tuition fees (up to £9,250 a year) and for maintenance support (means tested up to £11,354 a year).  Figures released by UCAS on 7th February showed the number of applications to start nursing degree courses in England has fallen from 43,800 in 2016, the last year students received the nursing bursary, to 30,650 this year – a drop of over 13,000.  In addition, between 2016 and 2018 the number of students actually starting courses dropped by almost 1,000.

  • Read the full NHS Improvement report here





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