Nursing Agencies' Medical Staff in Peak Demand as Full-Time Vacancies Soar

The Vacancies for nurses, midwives, hospital doctors and dentists in the UK have increased for the first time in five years Increasing patient demand, the lack of training places, staff retirement and changes in immigration laws are all thought to responsible for the situation.

With the pressures on full-time staff, agency nurses are in peak demand by Nursing Services of the UK. The agency has now recruited dozens of additional compliance staff to assist the process of registration and ensure that candidates can be available for work as soon as possible. The agency has one of the most advanced on-line registration systems of any UK nursing agency to enable medical staff to manage their own availability and receive notification of more work, more easily than ever before, according to the agency.

Vacant nursing jobs increased from 2.5 to 3.1 per cent – of which 0.7 per cent were long-term, up from 0.5 per cent in the previous year. The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing has expressed concern about long-term vacancies: even unfilled short-term vacancies leave nurses under unsustainable pressure, he said, with higher workloads, leaving staff too busy to provide the standard of care they want to offer.

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New European rules limiting junior doctors to 48 hours a week, which recently came into force, are also thought to have added to the pressure on staffing for healthcare providers. Senior doctors have called for the restrictions to be suspended until after the NHS has dealt with the H1N1 outbreak in the UK.

The latest vacancy figures, which look at jobs unfilled on March 31 this year, found that over 5 per cent of all NHS medical posts, which includes hospital doctors and dentists, were vacant. This is up from 3.6 per cent the previous year. The proportion which had been vacant for three months – which is considered an indication of hard-to-fill posts - was 1.5 per cent, up from 0.9 per cent.

Meanwhile, vacancies among GPs rose 1.2 to 1.6 per cent, although long-term vacancies remained broadly the same.

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