London’s NHS nursing shortage has got significantly worse in the past year, with more than 10,000 unfilled posts in the capital’s health trusts in 2015, according to figures published today by the Royal College of Nursing.
The impact on patients presenting at NHS hospitals such as Mayday and Purley will include longer waits in A&Es, delays in arranging some appointments and fewer staff on wards, but it could also mean bigger bills for our local hospitals, and more budget problems. According to the RCN, the nurse shortage sees vacancies going unfilled, or budget-busting agency staff having to be used.
Mayday has struggled in the past to recruit staff because it lies just outside the London weighting payment zone. Nurses and other staff can get paid more by taking jobs at St George’s, Guy’s or St Thomas’s, while living costs – in case you hadn’t noticed – are not much cheaper in Croydon than they are, say, in Tooting or Streatham.
As a result of being unable to fill the vacancies, Mayday’s management has to hire from expensive agencies, and face higher costs than if they were able to recruit full-time staff.
Earlier this week, Inside Croydon received reports of one of Croydon’s NHS walk-in centres being closed to patients due to staffing issues. Croydon’s NHS clincial commissioning group has not responded to our request for a comment on the situation.
In today’s report from the RCN, 17 per cent of all registered nursing posts in London were vacant in 2015. That’s an increase from 14 per cent in 2014.
When the RCN contacted trusts in July, some had vacancy rates of more than 20 per cent with two — London North West and South West London Mental Health Trust — reporting vacancy rates of 30 per cent. The national average is 10 per cent.
The NHS trusts have been attempting to increase staffing numbers in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire scandal. London is evidently recruiting more nurses, but at a slower pace than it needs to.
The costs of living in London, especially renting a home or paying a mortgage, makes it especially difficult for low-paid nurses to live in the capital, according to the RCN and one London Assembly Member who also works in the NHS. “With the high cost of living in the capital becoming increasingly unaffordable, it’s inevitable that you’ll struggle to attract and retain nurses and other key workers,” said Onkar Sahota, who also works as a doctor in Ealing.
The RCN blames cuts in the number of training places for nurses. “The problem is partly down to short-sighted workforce planning which saw training posts cut in the past, meaning there aren’t enough home-grown nurses coming through the system,” Bernell Bussue, the RCN’s London regional director, said.
“Most importantly, the ongoing pay freeze imposed by the government means that nursing staff increasingly just can’t afford to live and work in London.”
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