NHS vacancies in England at ‘staggering’ new high as almost 10% of posts empty

The number of posts lying vacant across the NHS in England has reached a “staggering” record high of 132,139 – almost 10% of its planned workforce.

Denis Campbell www.theguardian.com 

The number at the end of June was up sharply from three months earlier when there were 105,855 vacancies, quarterly personnel figures show.

NHS leaders said the huge number of empty posts showed why the health service is in a state of deepening crisis, with patients facing long waits for almost every type of care.

The previous highest number of vacancies for full-time-equivalent staff was 111,864, recorded at the end of June 2019.

The new number represents 9.7% of the NHS’s planned staffing levels – a new high. As recently as March 2021 there were 76,082 vacancies.

“Today’s vacancy figures are staggering and further proof that the NHS simply doesn’t have enough staff to deliver everything being asked of it”, said Saffron Cordery, the interim chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents all health service trusts in England. “With nearly one in 10 posts in trusts in England now vacant, and tens of thousands more right across the health and care system, many staff face unsustainable workloads and burnout.”

Danny Mortimer, the chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “These figures paint a bleak picture. A jump in nearly 30,000 staff vacancies – equivalent to the entire staffing of a large NHS hospital – show an alarming trend across the NHS of rising levels of vacancies.”

The headline total of 132,139 included vacancies for 46,828 nurses – the highest number on record, and a big increase on the 38,972 empty posts at the end of March. It represents a vacancy rate of 11.8%, the highest since the 12.1% seen in September 2019.

Pat Cullen, the acting general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Two weeks before we open our strike ballot, these stark figures reveal what is happening in England’s NHS – record numbers of unfilled nurse jobs, and rising fast too. Ten of thousands of experienced nurses left last year at the very moment we cannot afford to lose a single professional, and patients pay a heavy price.”

There were also 10,582 vacancies for doctors at the end of June – a 7.3% vacancy rate.

London had 30,506 vacancies across the acute, ambulance, community, mental health and specialist care sectors – another record. That equates to 12.5% of the capital’s planned NHS workforce.

The capital had more vacancies in acute hospitals than any other region – more than 20,000. There were 7,745 vacancies in mental health services in the city, meaning almost one in six posts (16%) were unfilled.

Cordery and Cullen identified pay levels as a key reason the NHS was being confronted with such a rapidly escalating number of vacant positions.

“The government’s failure to fully fund this year’s below-inflation pay awards, alongside ongoing concerns over punitive pension taxation for senior staff, will make it even harder to recruit and keep the health workers we so desperately need, which in turn will hugely impact on patients,” Cordery said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are boosting NHS recruitment with almost 4,100 more doctors and over 9,600 more nurses working across the NHS compared to last year. However, the overall number of posts is increasing as we expand services to bust the Covid backlogs and provide the best possible care to patients.

“Since September 2019 we have recruited an additional 29,000 nurses and are on track to meet our target of recruiting 50,000 more nurses by 2024. We have also commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term workforce plan to recruit and retain more NHS staff and have launched a taskforce to drive up the recruitment of international staff into critical roles across the system this winter.”

Plans submitted for demolition of timeshare resort to make way for new hotel and residential apartments – Exmouth

A landmark Exmouth timeshare resort could be demolished to make way for new residential apartments and a new hotel, if planning approval is granted. 

Dan Wilkins www.exmouthjournal.co.uk

Plans have been lodged with East Devon District Council for the demolition of the Devoncourt Resort and the construction of 77 new residential apartments – of which 25 per cent would be affordable – and a 62-bed hotel. 

Devoncourt, in Douglas Avenue, has been a family-owned building and for 30 years has functioned as a timeshare, offering large apartments on a timeshare basis. 

In the planning documents, the architects ARA Architecture said the proposals are in response to the decline in the timeshare business and follows a process of trying to offer its timeshare and holiday apartments on the open market without success. 

The design and access statement said: “The timeshare business within the UK, which was booming in the late 80’s and 90’s, has now ceased to exist.  

“The Devoncourt was set up as a profitable timeshare complex, with leases of 25 years on each of the apartments.  

“The existing leaseholders have been offered new contracts for the continuation of the timeshare; however, not one of the current residents has taken this up.  

“The units have been actively advertised…again over a long period of time, not one enquiry has led to the resigning of agreements to renew the timeshare facilities.” 

At the end of 2014, the existing timeshare leases had expired and leaseholders were informed in March 2011 but no expressions of interest were received about renewing the leases. 

The design and access statement said: “Since the end of 2014, all timeshare contracts ceased and since then the clients have let the apartments as nightly accommodation. The above factors combined mean that the Devoncourt cannot survive as a viable business in the current form.” 

The existing resort is a four-storey structure which has been added to in a ‘piecemeal fashion’ over the years.  

According to the architects the existing building is not suited to be renovated economically. 

The deadline for comments on the application is September 30. East Devon District Council will make the final decision. 

To view the proposals, go to https://planning.eastdevon.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=dates&keyVal=RH8CKNGHHWY00


Town council resists ‘absurd’ plan for new housing developments

Proposals to build nearly 250 new homes in Ottery St Mary are being opposed by the town council. 

Philippa Davies www.sidmouthherald.co.uk

Councillors argue that Ottery cannot possibly absorb such a large population increase without the necessary infrastructure – schools, doctors’ surgeries and public amenities. 

East Devon District Council (EDDC) has identified five sites in Ottery as suitable for a total of 248 homes, as part of its proposals to meet Government housing provision targets across the district. They are Barrack Farm, Thorne Farm, land north and south of Salston Barton, land at Bylands, Slade Road and land at Strawberry Lane. Potential development sites in Exmouth, Honiton, Axminster, Seaton and Sidmouth have also been identified. 

But at an extraordinary meeting of the town council on Tuesday, August 30, councillors rejected all five, and questioned why Ottery was being earmarked for a disproportionately large number of new homes, compared to the other towns. 

Cllr Roger Giles said: “Honiton, which is two and a half times larger than Ottery, and has a railway station from which it is possible to reach the heart of Exeter in less than half an hour, is scheduled to receive a smaller number of dwellings – 182 compared to 248.” 

He pointed out that the plans would see Exmouth, almost 10 times the size of Ottery, having only 302 homes built. 

He said it is also ‘distinctly odd’ that greenfield sites in Ottery have been chosen, when brownfield sites in Honiton are available. 

Speaking to the Herald after the meeting, he described the proposals as ‘absurd’ and ‘of very great concern’.

Ottery Town Council has already written to the leader of EDDC, Cllr Paul Arnott, pointing out that both the local primary school and The King’s School are already at capacity and the Coleridge Medical Centre is struggling. The council says Ottery is not against new housing, but wants a modest amount of it, and time for the necessary infrastructure to be put in place. 

The letter was read out at Monday’s meeting, which was attended by several members of the public who said they supported the council’s position. 

The housing proposals are part of EDDC’s Local Plan for the period 2020 to 2040. Ottery councillors want EDDC to amend the housing proposals for their town before the plan goes out for public consultation in mid-October. 


Boris Johnson steps in to solve energy crisis

At last the Conservatives have a concrete energy policy without having to wait until next Tuesday.

The PM, who read Classics at Oxford, demonstrates his grasp of the scale of the economic crisis facing hard-working Britons with this simple solution. – Owl

Boris Johnson tells public to buy £20 kettle to save £10 a year on energy bills.


Boris Johnson has been mocked for suggesting that Britons could ease their energy bill woes by buying a new £20 kettle to save £10 a year on their electricity.

The prime minister suggested the efficiency measure amid growing pressure for more cash support for families facing energy bills of more than £3,500 when the price cap rises in October.

Speaking in Suffolk, Mr Johnson said: “If you have an old kettle which takes ages to boil, it may cost you £20 to replace it – but if you get a new one, you’ll save £10 a year every year on your electricity bill.”

Among those ridiculing the PM’s suggestion in face of an overwhelming crisis, Labour’s shadow business minister Bill Esterson said: “Is he seriously out of touch, or is it that he just doesn’t care, or both?”

Mr Johnson said further help was up to his successor. But he said he was confident the next PM – whether Tory leadership favourite Liz Truss or underdog Rishi Sunak – would offer more “cash” support.

“Of course there will be more cash to come, whoever takes over from me, in the months ahead – substantial sums, that’s absolutely clear,” he said.

Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss – strong favourite to be take power at No 10 on Tuesday – has yet to commit to any further direct payments on the cost of living crisis.

Asked whether he had spoken to either Ms Truss or Mr Sunak about plans, the caretaker PM avoided a direct answer – but said it was “clear that come the new administration, there is going to be a further package”.

Mr Sunak has repeatedly promised to extend his earlier support package with an additional £5bn in support for pensioners and the poorest households through the benefits system.

While Ms Truss has spoken out against “handouts”, she today told The Sun she would be “robust” in offering immediate help with unaffordable bills, and is believed at looking at further direct payments for the most vulnerable.

Earlier on Thursday, chancellor Nadhim Zahawi said he is “deeply concerned” some Britons could freeze this winter if they are cannot afford to pay their bills. He said he hoped “nobody should be cut off this winter”.

Mr Zahawi admitted the current support package to help people cope was “not enough” – but claimed “more help is coming” when the PM’s successor is in place at No 10.

‘No one should be cut off’ if they can’t afford energy bills, says chancellor

It comes former minister Michael Gove – a Sunak backer – has urged Ms Truss to consider rationing of energy for businesses this winter.

Ms Truss ruled out any form of rationing at last night’s final Tory hustings event. But Mr Gove said the UK may have follow some European countries in limiting use by major users.

“It may be the case that in certain non-domestic settings, that there needs to be some form of restraint in the way that energy is used,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme – though he said he did not think household rationing would be necessary.

Mr Sunak told Tory members “we shouldn’t rule anything out” when asked about energy rationing this winter. “Many European countries are looking at how we can all optimise our energy usage, that is a sensible thing for us to be doing as a country.”

Asked by host Nick Ferrari whether she could rule out energy rationing, Ms Truss replied: “I do rule that out. Yes.”

Dozens of charities on the front line dealing with a “tsunami of need” caused by the cost-of-living crisis have called on the government to provide more urgent financial support to vulnerable households.

An open letter signed by 48 bosses across the voluntary sector said an “economic crisis of a magnitude not experienced for decades” will push many who have managed to make ends meet into poverty.

Mr Johnson, meanwhile, said he is ready to “get on with life” after stepping down at No 10. He insisted he will give his “full and unqualified” support to his successor after handing over the keys, but did not give any more details about his future plans.