In a new progress report, statistics have shown that there are around 27,000 more nurses in the NHS as of December 2021 than in September 2019.
There are currently 327,907 nurses, compared to 300,904 back in 2019, meaning the government are over halfway to achieving their manifesto promise of 50,000 new nurses by March 2024.
There are three main ways in which the government aim to achieve this workforce goal, one of those being through successfully retaining existing staff to ensure they do not decide to either reduce their working hours or leave the NHS all together.
A push on domestic recruitment has also been a sole focus, which involves successfully converting undergraduates, postgraduates’ apprenticeships nursing associates and assistant practitioners to fully qualified nurses.
Despite the publication of these figures claiming that nursing positions are being filled, The Royal College of Nursing have responded to the claims saying that “the government has not been transparent about how it calculates the numbers genuinely needed or safe and effective care”.
Royal College of Nursing General Secretary and Chief Executive, Pat Cullen said: “The number of unfilled nurse jobs has risen in the last year, not fallen. This workforce crisis - tens of thousands of vacant posts - is hitting patient care and adds to waiting lists and treatment delays.
"Without transparent publication of workforce data, nursing staff will question these claims. They do not match their day-to-day experience trying to provide safe and effective care with a significantly depleted workforce.
“Independent health policy experts share our concerns about the workforce not growing at the scale and pace needed for health and care services. This is a political target in the absence of a proper health and care workforce strategy”.
In addition to recruitment in the UK, the government have also placed an emphasis on recruiting internationally to enrich the health workforce from overseas.
Pat Cullen added: “Minsters must do more to increase those applying to study nursing in the UK – disproportionately hiring from overseas without large scale efforts to grow the nursing workforce within the UK appears short-sighted and could be understood as ethically questionable.”
The 50,000 nurses target refers to full time equivalent registered nurses across all NHS providers providing acute, community, mental health, and ambulance services.