The recent rapid acceleration of nursing job creation has flagged slightly in recent months, which could lead to fresh calls for additional investment in NHS recruitment.
New data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), highlighted by the Nursing Times, has shown that nurse numbers have fallen slightly since April 2014, following record-breaking increases earlier in the year.
The number of full-time equivalent qualified nurses, midwives and health visitors reached its highest recorded level of 314,802 in March 2014, which was 4,000 more than in May 2010. However, this total dropped slightly to 314,142 in April, followed by a further decrease to 313,752 over May and June.
According to the report, the surge in recruitment levels can be linked to the legacy of the Francis Report into care failings at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which prompted the introduction of safe staffing regulations from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
As such, since August 2013 more than 8,700 nurses have joined the NHS, with the majority of these coming into the acute care sector. However, with the new data suggesting that this momentum is starting to tail off, the need for additional investment in hiring will once again come under the spotlight.
Howard Catton, head of policy at the Royal College of Nursing, said: "At the moment it is incredibly difficult to recruit. There are shortages and employers are going across Europe to find staff."
However, he suggested that the emphasis on safe staffing and publishing data on workforce numbers will continue to drive recruitment, saying: "I think these factors will continue to drive a demand for nurses in the acute sector and you will still see recruitment and a rise in the numbers, but that will become increasingly difficult."
Earlier this year, a study from Health Education England suggested that around ten per cent of nursing posts in the health service are being left vacant, highlighting the strong demand for staff that still exists.
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