NHS England has launched a recruitment drive to try and recruit the tens of thousands of nurses needed to fill the void left at the centre of the organisation by low pay, high workloads and Covid.
The campaign, ‘We are the NHS’, is designed to celebrate nursing as varied and fulfilling and will be rolled out across radio, social media and cinema advertising.
NHS figures show that there are now 46,828 vacancies in nursing across hospitals, mental health and community care, the most there has ever been. This means that worryingly more than one in 10 nursing jobs is currently empty.
The NHS is short of staff across the board but it is the lack of nurses that is having the most profound effect, resulting in patients have to put up with long waits for A&E and cancer treatments, among other things.
However it will take more than a recruitment drive to deal with the problems the NHS currently faces.
Director for England of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Patricia Marquis, says: “It is all futile until nursing staff are paid a fair salary. The only way to solve the workforce crisis and recruit and retain nursing staff is to pay them fairly.”
The RCN is asking ministers to improve on the £1,400 pay rise they have been offered, asking instead for a pay rise that is 5% above inflation. The union is currently balloting members about potential strike action on the issue.
Although the chief executive of NHS Employers welcomed the recruitment drive, he raised concerns about the challenges that the organisation is facing.
“Health leaders remain, though, profoundly concerned that the government has repeatedly failed to invest in the health and social care workforce,” he said.
“The pressures on social care are mounting, particularly as rates of pay fall further for social care staff behind the wider job market. The need for the next prime minister to act to expand the numbers of staff being trained to work in health and social care is now critical and long overdue.”
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