Interest in nurse jobs falls by a fifth in two years.

Scale of staffing challenge revealed.

Indeed have found the number of people searching for UK nursing jobs has fallen by nearly a fifth over the last two years. While election manifestos from Britain’s major political parties all make promises to boost the NHS workforce, Indeed’s analysis shows jobseeker searches for nurse jobs fell by 17.4 per cent between October 2017 and October 2019, suggesting recruiting on a large scale could be challenging.

The most recent figures from the NHS shows there were 287,457 nurses and health visitors in full-time employment in England in August, a 3.9 per cent increase from 276,763 from five years earlier, and a 3.2 per cent rise over the last decade. However, there were also 39,520 nursing vacancies in England in the first quarter of this year, with around 11 per cent of roles vacant. A proportion are filled by agency or contract workers.

Indeed’s data shows interest in nursing jobs among jobseekers has waned in the past two years, and its analysis of some of the UK’s biggest cities shows decreased searches for nurse roles across the board.

One of the biggest declines seen is in Manchester, where searches have fallen by almost a fifth (19.1 per cent) in the past two years. Interest in Birmingham has fallen by 14.4 per cent, and London, which has the largest number of employed nurses of any region in the UK, has also seen a decline, with searches falling by 13.6 per cent.

The starting salary for Band 5 newly-qualified nurses is around £24,214, up from £21,176 in 2010/11. However, taking inflation into account, nurses are earning around £2,458 less than they might have done had their salaries gone up at the same rate, equating to a 9 per cent reduction in pay in real terms.

The Conservative Party’s manifesto includes a promise for 50,000 more nurses in the NHS, although subsequent reports following its publication suggested that figure includes 18,000 existing nurses who will be encouraged to remain in the NHS, or rejoin. Labour did not make a promise for a specific number of new nurse roles, but pledged to “end the crisis in our health and care service”, making commitments to the NHS workforce including training bursaries for nurses, and pay rises in real terms every year.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats have promised to review the NHS’ future needs and create a workforce strategy with an emphasis on retaining staff and training more people.

“Nurses are the bedrock of the NHS, providing vital support in hospitals and GP surgeries, but with an 11 per cent vacancy rate, even a small fall in jobseeker interest makes an enormous difference to staffing levels,” states Bill Richards, UK managing director at Indeed. “Filling nurse vacancies is already proving a challenge, and our data shows the NHS is battling declining interest in nursing. The UK unemployment level is at just 3.8 per cent, its lowest in four decades, meaning employers often have to woo recruits away from their current jobs.

“With both private and public sector employers competing hard for every recruit, the NHS could tap multiple talent pools at once, persuading tens of thousands more people to train to be nurses, or luring former nurses back into the profession,” he suggests. “Nursing is a challenging job with long and antisocial hours but at the same time nurses enjoy a unique sense of social responsibility, trust and respect, as well as a profession which provides variety and opportunity.”

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