Indian doctors, who have been used to fill some vacancies, tell Sky News they are shocked by how busy NHS hospitals are.
The number of vacant full-time positions in the NHS has risen 10% in the last year, fuelling concerns that a burgeoning recruitment crisis could impact on patient safety.
According to the latest figures released by NHS Digital there were 86,055 advertised full-time vacancies in the NHS in England in the first quarter of 2017.
In the same period last year there were 78,112, a 10% increase year-on-year.
In March, the last month for which figures are available, there were 30,613 vacant full-time positions advertised, compared to 26,424 in the same month in 2016, a rise of 16%.
Of the first-quarter vacancies, some 32,929 were for nursing and midwifery posts and 11,155 for medical and dental, which includes doctors.
Sky News has spent time at one London hospital that has introduced innovative measures to tackle its own recruitment challenges.
Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow has the largest A&E department in London, but is facing rising demand and a shortage of specialist registrars, middle-ranking doctors.
Facing competition from other London hospitals that was driving up pay, they decided to recruit directly from India.
Miriam Harris, the clinical lead in the Northwick Park emergency medicine department, said: “Rather than offering large salaries, which is what we tried to do before and got caught up in a bidding war with all other hospitals in London, we were offering to train people and invest in them and their future.”
Lajeesh Vettikat, a specialist A&E registrar from New Delhi, said he had been surprised by the pressure on A&E departments.
He told Sky News: “I had read about the A&E sector – now I know how real the shortage is in terms of doctors and nursing staff.
“This is the biggest A&E department in London and we have about 30 doctors a day here, but the number of patients in A&E is so huge we end up seeing patients in the corridors, in the back of ambulances, in the waiting rooms, in the relatives’ rooms.
“It is really worrying but we are working really hard to make sure the patients are safe and the department is safe.”
Northwick Park is also training some nurses to become advanced clinical practitioners, an intermediate qualification that lets them take on some doctors’ duties.
These include prescribing medicines and discharging, which is crucial to freeing up beds and improving the flow of patients through the hospital.
There are concerns that recruitment is being hampered by uncertainty over Brexit.
In June, it was revealed that the number of nurses from the European Union registering to work in the UK has fallen by 96% since the Brexit vote last year.
Last week NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the NHS would have to recruit 2,000 doctors from overseas despite having a target of training 5,000 more home-grown doctors by 2020.
The Royal College of Nursing has warned that there are around 25,000 vacancies and warn that the strain on existing staff is putting the NHS at a “tipping point”.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Staffing is a priority – that’s why we have invested in the frontline and there are almost 32,400 more professionally qualified clinical staff including almost 11,800 more doctors, and over 12,500 more nurses on our wards, since May 2010.”
Labour’s shadow health spokesman Justin Mathers told Sky News the latest figures had not come as a surprise.
He said: “We’ve been warning for some time that the Government were simply not doing enough not only to recruit enough staff but to retain existing staff.
“We know that Brexit has led to a massive reduction in the EU nationals that work here in the health service and we know that figures show that more midwives are leaving the profession than joining it for the first time in the history of the NHS.”
This article was taken from: http://news.sky.com/story/nhs-england-vacancies-rise-by-10-in-a-year-10960284
By: By Paul Kelso, Health Correspondent
14:39, UK,Tuesday 25 July 2017