Nurses being 'driven away from job they love' as vacancies hit 'record levels'
Nursing shortages in the NHS have hit record levels, union officials are warning - as new figures reveal rising numbers of vacancies in the east.
Frontline workers have their "arms tied behind their backs" in trying to maintain standards in the wake of a "staffing crisis", the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned.
Their comments come as latest NHS data shows there are currently 4,403 nursing vacancies in the east of England.
The majority are in acute hospitals, with 3,294 full time equivalent vacancies, plus 207 in community hospitals, 825 in mental health units and 78 specialist posts. Nationally, there are 43,593 empty nursing posts.
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"Nursing staff want to deliver the best for patients, but have one arm tied behind their back in trying to maintain standards," said the RCN's Patricia Marquis.
"They deliver the vast majority of patient care and a shortage of them is one of the single biggest challenges facing health and social care services, across which the real vacancy rate will be far larger.
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"A new government must prioritise this challenge, and we are encouraged to see cross party intentions to do so.
"Whoever forms it, we will be holding them to account on election pledges for investing in educating, but also retaining, more registered nurses.
She added: "Our (employment) report makes clear what is currently driving people away from the nursing profession they love, and what politicians everywhere have an urgent responsibility to address."
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The new data on nursing posts was published on the same day as a recent employment survey which saw six in 10 nurses admitting they cannot provide the level of care they want to.
Suffolk nurses recently took to the streets of Bury St Edmunds, making a stand against what they described as a "nursing crisis".
Nurse Helen Maw said Brexit uncertainty had made things worse for staff in the east: "It's already had an impact. We've got overseas nurses who are now not coming and some that have already gone back in anticipation of what the fallout might be from Brexit."
The Conservative Party says it will restore the nursing bursary to recruit 50,000 more nurses, while Labour has promised to recruit 24,000 more nurses, midwives and allied health professionals, alongside 4,500 health visitors and school nurses.
The Lib Dems have said they will produce a national workforce strategy, the boost support, flexible working, and improve retention with continuing professional development.