Responding to the latest NHS workforce figures, Rebecca Smith, managing director of NHS Employers, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: “It is reassuring to see so many more nurses have entered the workforce in England, at a time when the treatment and care they provide across the whole system is so sorely needed. This is testament both to the willingness of returners and students to step up to the plate, and to the incredible efforts of NHS organisations to recruit and retain staff.
“However, these figures do not necessarily give the full picture. Ongoing staff shortages have had an effect on workplace culture and practices, and continued investment in workforce growth will be needed so that employers can continue to support staff wellbeing and improve experience, to make sure retention is sustained. We must also acknowledge that reducing vacancies will be vital to alleviate the effects of COVID-19-related burnout. While the increase in student applications is positive, this won’t have an impact in the short term and international recruitment will remain a challenge. Leaders have told us the biggest risk to delivering the NHS People Plan is workforce shortages.
“The most recent vacancy statistics also showed there were still nearly 38,000 vacancies in nursing in the quarter ending 30 June, with the biggest gaps in acute care and mental health. It will be crucial to see how these new workforce figures stack up against the next quarter’s vacancy data, to give a clearer idea of the scale of the challenge still to be overcome.”