Average NHS-advertised nursing and midwifery role 'draws three applications'

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The average nursing and midwifery role advertised in the NHS is only drawing three applications, new figures show.

Experimental statistics from NHS Digital show that there were 30,613 advertisements for vacancies for full-time positions published in England in March 2017 - a rise from 26,424 in 2016 and 26,406 in 2015.

Of these, 38% of vacancies were for registered nurses or midwives.

Overall between January 2017 and the end of March 2017, there were 86,035 advertised vacancy full-time equivalents in England.

The data - collected from NHS Jobs, the main recruitment website for the NHS - also shows how many people applied for each role.

Between October 1 2016 and December 31 2016, a total of 81,674 vacancies were advertised with an average of 10 applications per role.

During this period, 31,197 nursing or midwifery positions were advertised gaining an average of three applications per role.

Figures for the same period in 2015 show that 28,713 nursing or midwifery positions were advertised, earning an average of four applications for each role.

NHS Digital said the figures should be treated with caution as a job advertisement can be used to fill one vacancy, multiple vacancies or an ongoing recruitment programme.

Commenting on the figures, Dr Mark Holland, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the removal of the Government's 1% cap on public sector pay rises was long overdue.

He said: "Removing the pay cap on NHS staff, particularly the lowest paid, is long overdue, while the extra pressure on overworked frontline staff to meet targets must be eased.

"This data shows it is high time we saw steps taken to stop disincentivising staff - salaries must be fair, working conditions must be safe and sustainable and clear career pathways must be in place."

Separate figures from the NHS statistical authority show that the total NHS workforce went up by 1.9% when comparing figures from April 2017 and April 2016.

The headcount was 1,186,420 in April 2017 - 22,547 more than in April 2016.

In April this year there were 318,796 nurses and health visitors and 26,060 midwives.

This compares with 318,804 nurses and health visitors and 25,882 midwives in April 2016.

Commenting on the figures, the Royal College of Nursing said the true number of unfilled jobs is "far higher" than the number of online adverts and stands at 40,000 in England.

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the nursing union, said: "More people are leaving nursing than joining - deterred by low pay, relentless pressure and new training costs.

"For the sake of patient safety, the Chancellor must scrap the cap on pay and help to fill the tens of thousands of vacant nurse jobs.

"The Government is holding pay below inflation and inflicting a real-terms pay cut worth £3,000 per year.

"Too many now feel no alternative but to leave nursing.

"Theresa May must draw a line under this false economy and address safe staffing levels in law."

Sarah Carpenter, national officer for health at the union Unite, said: "The NHS is faced with a perfect storm over recruitment, which is disclosed in the sharp and very disturbing rise in advertised vacancies in England.

"The three main factors that need to be urgently addressed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt are the harsh pay austerity regime; the impact of Brexit on the estimated 55,000 EU nationals working for the NHS; and the obsession with constant reorganisation, the latest being the 44 controversial Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) in England."

Kevin Brandstatter, GMB's national officer for public services, added: "It's not surprising our dedicated NHS workers are leaving the profession in droves.

"They have been hit by a real-terms pay cut for the past seven years - their wage rises have been consistently lower than inflation."

MP Chuka Umunna, leading supporter of campaign group Open Britain, said: "At a time when our NHS is under great strain, these growing staff shortages represent a deadly double whammy.

"It is clear that hard Brexit, and the Government's ideological obsession with cutting immigration, is hitting our public services."

A Department of Health spokeswoman 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."