The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has called on the government to step up NHS nurse recruitment efforts in order to ensure the needs of patients are being sufficiently met.
A recent report from Health Education England has revealed that there is strong demand for skilled nursing professionals at the moment, as many trusts have a huge number of vacancies that still need to be filled.
Indeed, the study showed that around ten per cent of nursing posts in the health service are being left vacant, with many employers looking abroad to recruit nurses in order to make up the numbers.
According to the RCN, the publication of the report is a positive step, insofar as it suggests that NHS organisations are starting to genuinely acknowledge the need for more nurses. RCN research has shown this has grown stronger in recent months, with its figures from November 2013 showing the vacancy rate in nursing posts stood at only six per cent at that point.
Dr Peter Carter, the college's chief executive and general secretary, noted that one effective way of making up the shortfall would be to make greater effort to encourage registered nurses who no longer work in the NHS to return to practice.
The RCN leader explained: "Bringing their skills and experience back to the health service can be a relatively quick and cost-effective means of plugging the gaps in staffing."
He added: "Such nurses are an invaluable resource for the NHS, but attracting them back into work will require the provision of dedicated support from employers. There needs to be sufficient funding for return to practice programmes and suitable supervision and mentoring processes in place."
It was also proposed that the government overhauls its workforce planning strategies in order to ensure that the number of people employed by the NHS is always high enough to provide a top-quality service.
This comes at a time when it is becoming increasingly well-understood that proper staffing levels and quality of care are inextricably linked, with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence having issued draft recommendations on safe staffing for nursing in adult inpatient wards for acute hospitals earlier this month.
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