The NHS in England now has more than 130,000 FTE vacancies, new data has revealed, prompting claims the health service ‘simply doesn’t have enough staff’ to function.
This figure has risen from 105,855 in March 2022, after falling slightly from 110,224 vacancies at the end of 2021.
Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, described the figures as ‘staggering’, suggesting they stand as ‘further proof’ that the NHS does not have enough staff ‘to deliver everything being asked of it’.
She said: ‘With nearly one-in-10 posts in trusts in England now vacant and tens of thousands more right across the health and care system, many staff face unsustainable workloads and ‘burnout’ as they strive to bring down waiting lists and treat patients as quickly as possible in the face of ever-growing demand.
‘The government’s failure to fully fund this year’s below inflation pay awards, alongside ongoing concerns over punitive pension taxation for senior staff, will make it even harder to recruit and keep the health workers we so desperately need, which in turn will hugely impact on patients.’
Ms Cordery claimed the current situation could have been avoided, if not for successive governments’ failure to ‘adequately train and recruit’ into the NHS workforce.
It comes as the Department of Health and Social Care this week confirmed reports that health secretary Steve Barclay told NHS England to implement a freeze on almost all recruitment.
The BMA also drew on the new vacancy figures when urging the next prime minister to make NHS staff retention their ‘top priority’.
Dr Emma Runswick, BMA deputy chair of council, said: ‘The NHS is already facing a precarious future due to chronic under-funding and a backlog of patient care that will take years to clear.
‘The health service now has a staggering number of vacancies – with more than 130,000 vacancies in the NHS in England alone – a rise of nearly 25% over the last quarter. Without sufficient numbers of skilled and experienced healthcare staff, the NHS has no chance of clearing the growing NHS backlog, leading to poorer patient care and lengthier waiting lists.’
Yesterday, Mr Barclay – who is expected to be replaced in the next prime minister’s reshuffle – delivered a keynote speech at think tank Policy Exchange, during which he set out his ambition to reduce the overall numbers and cost costs associated with NHS management.