East Lancashire health bosses dispute nursery and midwifery shortages claim

Burnley General Teaching Hospital
Burnley General Teaching Hospital
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Health bosses in East Lancashire have disputed figures provided by NHS Digital data that vacancies in nursing and midwifery in our area have soared over the past year.

The Royal College of Nurses says their members are under 'constant pressure' as a result of staff shortages, compromising patient care.

NHS Digital figures show 437 job openings for nurses and midwives were advertised by the trust between July and September 2018, 62% more than over the same period in 2017, when 269 were posted.

However, East Lancashire Hospitals Trust disputed the figures, even classing them 'factually incorrect'.

According to NHS Digital, as of September 2018, the trust employed 7,373 full-time staff, including 2,269 nursing staff and 721 doctors and dentists.

Nurses and midwives made up 31% of the workforce, but 71% of the 614 positions advertised over the three months. The number of openings for doctors and dentists at East Lancashire Hospitals also rose - from 47 to 62.

Overall, the number of jobs advertised at the trust rose by 40%, from 438 to 614.

Christine Pearson, Director of Nursing at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The Trust strongly disputes the statistics released by NHS Digital which are factually incorrect and misrepresent the much lower number of nursing vacancies at East Lancashire Hospitals.

“Despite a national shortage, at the end of 2018 we employed 2,318 registered nurses and midwives to care for patients at our five hospitals and in the community. As of today, we have 255 nursing and midwifery vacancies, more than we would like but far fewer than the number reported by NHS Digital.

“The Trust continues to successfully recruit nurses locally, nationally and internationally to ensure we maintain safe staffing levels on all our wards. In addition, we are more successful in retaining our existing nursing workforce with the number of nurses who leave the Trust each year (5.2%) much lower than the national average (11%).

“Our future nursing workforce is also shaping up well. In partnership with the University of Central Lancashire, we welcomed our largest ever single intake of students in January (133) and we currently have 377 student nurses in training and on placement at the start of what we hope will be long and successful careers with us.”

RCN England director Patricia Marquis said underfunding and a lack of planning has severely depleted the nursing workforce across the country.

She said: "Our members say they've been pushed from pillar to post. They feel anxious that they might make mistakes because of the constant pressure short staffing causes.

"The burden on the insufficient workforce leads to conditions in which experienced nurses consider leaving, and aspiring nurses think twice about their chosen career."

"Shortages don't just make every hard-working healthcare worker's job more taxing and arduous; it has a clear impact on the safe and effective care of patients."

The RCN urged politicians to provide more funding for higher education in nursing and introduce legislation to crack down on unsafe staffing levels.