Belfast Telegraph

Almost 7,500 vacant staff posts in Northern Ireland health system - patients at risk, says MLA

There are 7,436 vacant posts at present. (PA)
There are 7,436 vacant posts at present. (PA)

Care of patients in Northern Ireland's health system is being impacted by the thousands of staff vacancies, an MLA has said.

Roy Beggs was speaking after it emerged that there are 7,436 vacant empty posts. That is double the amount of jobs since March 2017.

The overall tally includes key frontline positions such as 2,482 vacant nursing posts, 704 allied health professionals, 654 carers, 454 nursing assistants, 413 social workers, 292 doctors and 120 pharmacists.

Mr Beggs said the current situation was a "serious crisis", demonstrating the "frightening pressure" the local health service is under.

“There is no doubt that staff shortages of this magnitude are having an impact on patient care and safety. It’s also inevitably a further reason as to why our waiting lists are so appalling as appointments, operations and procedures cannot go ahead and are often cancelled at short notice due to a shortage of available staff," the East Antrim MLA said.

“Patients who are medically fit to leave hospital are also being left trapped on hospital beds as there are simply not enough care packages available in the community, again often due to a shortage of staff.

“Some of these empty posts are being temporarily filled with agency staff – but this is only draining vast sums of money away from other areas of patient care and is doing nothing whatsoever to resolve the wider problem of so many vacant posts.

The UUP health spokesperson said the health system does not have the capacity or resources to meet rising demand.

"It is all fine and well focusing on isolated parts of the local system that can be reformed or reorganised, but until we actually start reinvesting in more permanent staff, hospital beds and theatre space, then the problem we are experiencing locally of demand exceeding capacity will only continue to get worse," Mr Beggs said.

“It’s about time that the scale of so many missing staff in the five Health and Social Care Trusts came as a wakeup call to the Department of Health. The Department needs to recognise the scale of the recruitment crisis and must put in place more long-term workforce planning.

UUP MLA Roy Beggs
UUP MLA Roy Beggs

"Funding should be spent on recruiting permanent staff instead of paying extortionate agency prices. Until this occurs I fear the current workers will be stretched even more thinly, compounding the problem we already have with staff retention.”

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