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Healthcare recruiter responds to reports of staff shortages in hospitals

The Journal’s analysis of staffing levels at 135 NHS acute trusts shows more than four-fifths (114 organisations or 83 per cent) failed to meet their own planned levels for registered nurses working during both the day and night in April in at least one of their hospitals. This is compared with 76 per cent of trusts for the same month in 2014.

In addition, NHS trusts have subsequently been told by Monitor, the health service regulator, to fill vacancies “only where essential” as it warned that current financial plans are “quite simply unaffordable”.

Specialist healthcare recruitment agency, MSI Group, warns that trusts must take a strategic approach to workforce planning if they are to maintain patient safety levels amid rising cost pressures.  

Commenting on the reports, Nick Simpson, CEO of MSI Group, said, “It’s worrying, although not altogether unsurprising, that 84 per cent of acute trusts failed to meet their nurse staffing targets for both day and night in at least one hospital in April this year.

“As an agency working on the front line of NHS recruitment, we hear time and time again from clients that last year’s introduction of staffing guidance for acute wards by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has meant that finding the adequate number of suitably qualified staff – at the right price – is increasingly difficult. 

“There are simply not enough trained nurses working on a full-time basis to fill shifts in accordance with the new safe staffing guidelines. This, coupled with historic cuts in training places, a nursing retirement cliff, and new immigration rules, mean that there is simply not the supply to fulfil demand.

“Against this backdrop, Monitor’s advice to only fill & lsquo;essential’ vacancies seems absurd, and is likely to anger trusts which are already failing to meet safe staffing guidelines.  

“NHS leaders must apply some joined-up thinking if they are to pipeline talent to solve the staffing crisis long term. However, in the meantime, the strategic use of contract professionals to cover absence and times of increased demand is an efficient way of maintaining front-line services without the cost of increasing permanent headcount. 

“With this in mind, it’s encouraging to see that the Government is taking steps to crack down on unscrupulous staffing agencies - operating outside of NHS approved staffing frameworks – which take advantage of hospitals’ desperation to maintain patient safety levels.”  

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