BMA blames ‘poor workforce planning’ for high staff vacancy rates

Increasing pressures on the NHS mean vacancy rates are over three times the national average, the British Medical Association (BMA) has said.

A BBC FOI request released today used data from 106 out of 166 trusts and health boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to show that there are 6,207 vacancies for doctors and 23,443 for nurses. There is a 9% vacancy rate for nurses and 7% for doctors, compared to a 2.7% vacancy rate across all job sectors.

The figures show that 69% of UK trusts are actively recruiting for nurses and doctors overseas.

Dr Mark Porter, British Medical Association (BMA) council chair, said: “Poor workforce planning means we aren’t producing enough doctors and sending them to the right areas.

“But also there are signs that pressures on the NHS – rising workload, falling funding, salary freezes – means that some doctors are opting for retirement early while newer medical graduates are moving abroad or less inclined to go to rural areas or challenging specialities.”

The BMA is currently planning a new round of strikes in protest at the government’s planned imposition of new contracts on junior doctors that introduce reduced rates for doctors working on weekends.

The latest statistics also show a rapid increase in vacancies, with nursing vacancies growing by 50% from 2013-15 and doctors’ vacancies by 60%.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We know that much more needs to be done to make sure we continue to have the right number of staff in training and on our wards so patients receive high quality care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

They added that there have been 10,600 additional doctors and 10,600 additional nurses on the wards since May 2010, and that the government’s controversial decision to end bursaries for student nurses will create 10,000 more training places.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt MP temporarily lifted restrictions on overseas nursing staff to help ease staffing shortages this winter. Recent analysis from NHS Improvement also showed that the numbers of nurses and some consultants have failed to keep up with a significant growth in demand.

Janet Davies, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: "It's very worrying that despite countless warnings about the dangerous consequences of short staffing, the gap between the NHS staff needed and the staff available is widening.

"Nursing posts are often the first target when savings need to be made, leading the NHS to find itself dangerously short and having to spend more on agency staff and recruitment from other countries.

"The modest increases made in training places are not nearly enough to tackle current problems or the significant challenges facing the NHS over the coming decade.

"Far from being a remedy for these shortages, plans to take away bursaries from those who want to train to be a nurses, forcing them to rely solely on large loans, are yet another threat to nursing numbers.

"Time and again, the NHS finds that failing to train enough staff is its Achilles heel. The consequences are felt by nurses working under relentless pressure, and they are reflected in the sorry state of NHS finances.

"Sadly, the consequences are also felt by patients who face delays and unmet needs, and by other countries who can ill afford to export their trained staff."


Linda   29/02/2016 at 15:17

Driving people out then bleating about service levels and having to go abroad to recruit is a clear demonstration of how negative an impact all this micro management by politicians has. Senior partner retiring early in 6 months, next two in line looking at options one already out of pension scheme, senior nurse looking at options, of more junior Drs one off to Australia and one to US to do research. Surely looking at retaining people would be so much more sensible, this is just a way of undermining the NHS till it collapses

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