Nurse vacancies in the NHS across England have risen once again after showing signs of falling from last year’s peak.
The number of vacant nursing positions in the NHS increased by 3,243 between March and June of this year – taking the total to 43,339.
This comes after vacancies, calculated as the difference between funded posts and full-time equivalent positions filled, began to fall throughout the start of 2023.
At the end of June 2022, the total number of nursing vacancies stood at a record 46,607. But by December of that year, the total had fallen over 3,000 to 43,251.
Vacancies continued to fall during the early months of 2023 and had reached some 40,096 in March 2023 – the lowest vacancies had been since a year prior.
But as workforce shortages rise once again, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned the health and care system had been left ‘unprepared’ ahead of the winter months.
RCN director for England, Patricia Marquis, said: ‘As we head towards another challenging winter there are still over 40,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England. It is leaving our health and care system underprepared for the months ahead.’
She added: ‘Each nurse has to care for too many patients, sometimes as many as 15 and 20 each – this ratio of nurse to patients is unsafe for all concerned.
Ms Marquis pointed to the recent fall in accepted nursing students due to begin this September, adding that ‘today’s staff find it hard to see how the current pressure will abate’.
When broken down, the data shows a wide difference in nursing vacancies from region to region.
Analysis suggests that London remains the area worst affected by nurse shortages, with a total vacancy rate of 13.5%.
Though nurse vacancy rates in London, as in most regions, remain below pre-pandemic levels. In June 2019, for example, the vacancy rate in London was at 15.2%.
However, all regions apart from the South West saw increasing rates of vacancies between March and June of this year.