Nursing shortage at Midlands hospitals branded 'full-blown NHS crisis'
There are nearly 8,500 nursing vacancies across the Midlands, according to new figures which union bosses say shows there is a "full-blown crisis" in the NHS.
The number of unfilled nursing posts in the region has risen by six per cent over the last year with the total standing at 8,416 at the end of September.
Hospitals across the Black Country and Staffordshire have faced challenges recruiting enough nurses amid long A&E waiting times for patients.
The number of unfilled jobs for nurses in the NHS across the region represents 12.6 per cent of the workforce – or one in eight posts.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the UK’s biggest professional nursing union, says getting into nursing is becoming "unaffordable" and claimed the nurse shortage "is putting the quality and safety of patient care at risk and leaving many nursing staff with unsustainably high workloads".
The Express & Star revealed in November how Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley was facing a "very challenging situation" because of 230 nursing vacancies. Despite filling some roles, chief nurse Mary Sexton said “it should not be underestimated how hard nursing and midwifery staff were working”.
There are 182 vacancies at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton, though the total by 20 during October. There is a 10 per cent vacancy rate at Walsall Manor Hospital, latest figures show.
The RCN says more cash needs to be invested to provide more financial support for student nurses and increase the incentive to enter the profession.
Mark Butler, Chair of the RCN’s West Midlands Board and a mental health nurse in Staffordshire, said: “There are more vacancies for nurses in the NHS this year than there have ever been because the supply in the last few years has been barely a trickle when, in fact, a cascade was needed to keep pace with the unprecedented demand on the NHS.
“Four years ago this month, in its Autumn Statement of 2015, the Government first signalled that NHS bursary would be abolished and tuition fees would be introduced for nursing students.
“That reckless decision took effect in August 2017, supposedly to increase the size of the future nursing workforce, but it has backfired as we and others predicted it would. The number of students has gone down, not up, because, for too many, doing a nursing degree is now unaffordable.
“The huge falls in the number of EU nurses coming to or staying in the UK since the 2016 referendum has compounded the crisis.”