17% of all registered nursing posts in London were vacant in 2015, according to new figures from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
That's an increase from 14% in 2014, and adds up to around 10,140 unfilled posts in London health trusts. When the RCN contacted trusts in July, some had vacancy rates of over 20% with two — London North West and South West London Mental Health Trust — reporting vacancy rates of 30%. The national average is 10%.
The Department of Health told the BBC that 'it did not recognise the figures and London had 1,800 more nurses than a year ago'. However, as we saw last year, trusts have been attempting to increase staffing numbers in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire scandal. London is evidently recruiting more nurses, but at a far slower pace than it needs to. Vacancies are dealt with either by running short-staffed, or being forced to use more expensive agency staff.
RCN London Regional Director Bernell Bussue said:
The problem is partly down to shortsighted workforce planning which saw training posts cut in the past, meaning there aren’t enough home grown nurses coming through the system. Most importantly, the ongoing pay freeze imposed by the government means that nursing staff increasingly just can’t afford to live and work in London.
Labour Assembly Member Onkar Sahota, who also works as a doctor in Ealing, said:
We’ve seen a devastating mix of reductions in nurse training posts and bursaries, and low morale brought about by increasing work pressures. It’s little wonder that fewer people are attracted to nursing and that those who are in the profession want out. With the high cost of living in the capital becoming increasingly unaffordable, it’s inevitable that you’ll struggle to attract and retain nurses and other key workers.