‘INTOLERABLE pressure’ being placed on Barnsley Hospital nurses has been verified by new NHS figures which revealed ten per cent of nursing posts were not filled by the end of last year.
The vacancy rate for nurses has risen from 9.9 per cent in March 2020, before the pandemic, to 10.8 per cent at the end of last year.
The statistics which equate to 5.7 per cent of full-time equivalent positions come after a staff body for nurses, the Royal College of Nursing, said there ‘simply aren’t enough’ staff to cope with demand.
Of 212 hospitals across England, 79 had a vacancy rate of ten per cent or more with Bradford District Care Trust having the highest, at 23.3 per cent.
General secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Pat Cullen, said a lack of staff was impacting the quality of care they can provide to patients.
“Recruiting and retaining nursing staff in the NHS has become a serious challenge on the back of over a decade of pay cuts,” she added.
“Until we begin to turn the tide and fill these vacant posts, the NHS will not be able to tackle the backlog in care.
“This is why we are urging the Health Secretary to get back round the table and negotiate with us.
“Years of under investment including a decade of real-terms pay cuts means record numbers of staff are leaving the NHS.
“Staff are leaving, realising they can get similar or better pay in supermarkets and retail without the stress of the job, and poor pay is creating severe staff shortages and making patients unsafe.”
NHS Digital figures, which are rounded to the nearest five, show around 395 NHS staff resigned from their roles at Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in 2021/22.
NHS bosses say the vacancies do not mean unoccupied jobs are not being carried out, as a shortfall in permanent employees may be covered by temporary or agency staff.
However, to address subsequent rising costs for this, expenditure caps will be brought in at the hospital to reduce the amount of cash being spent on filling posts with agency staff after a £6m annual cost was revealed.
A report into the hospital’s salary costs shows £161m was spent on its entire workforce in a year, but the amount which had to be paid to agency workers was more than £500,000 overbudget.
Caroline Waterfield, director of development and employment at the NHS, said: “We know we are not immune to the challenges facing the rest of the UK economy in terms of a very competitive labour market.
“Not only has it been very tricky to attract the right number of suitable candidates into some roles, we’ve also seen higher levels of turnover as colleagues move jobs within the health and social care sector and into other industries.
“In some clinical roles, such as nursing and doctors, recruiting from overseas has supplemented UK training and enabled vacancies to be filled.”