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Full extent of UK nursing shortages revealed

The vast majority of health services in England are experiencing a shortage of qualified nurses, a survey from NHS Employers has uncovered. 

The survey, carried out as part of a Health Education England steering group, found that 83% of organisations are currently having a shortage of nurses. 

Over 40 different specialties of nursing  were reported to be hard to fill, and skill shortages were the most reported reason for difficulty recruiting. 

Many organisations (45%) have actively tried to recruit outside the UK over the past year to fill vacancies, and 51% are considering doing this over the next 12 months. 

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: “It is certainly positive that NHS organisations are now acknowledging the need for more nurses, but urgent action must be taken to address the current shortfalls in the nursing workforce.

“One part of the solution should be to encourage registered nurses who no longer work in the NHS to return to practice. Bringing their skills and experience back to the health service can be a relatively quick and cost-effective means of plugging the gaps in staffing and the RCN supports Health Education England's work in this area. Such nurses are an invaluable resource for the NHS, but attracting them back into work will require the provision of dedicated support from employers. There needs to be sufficient funding for return to practice programmes and suitable supervision and mentoring processes in place.   

“But above all it must be stressed that the NHS has to examine and rectify the failings in long-term workforce planning that have led to this unnecessary numbers crisis. Without an increase in nurse numbers the quality of patient care in the NHS is being jeopardised. This cannot continue.”

The full report is available to view online.