Northern Ireland

Nursing: 850 vacancies in four Northern Ireland health trusts

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Media captionThere are more than 850 nursing vacancies across four of Northern Ireland's five health trusts

There are more than 850 nursing vacancies across four of Northern Ireland's five health trusts, the BBC has learned.

Figures also reveal there are 243 doctor vacancies.

While the figures show massive gaps in the system, they do not reveal the true extent of the problem as one health trust did not provide the information.

In the last two years vacancies in nursing at the Southern Health Trust went up by 1,000% - from 19 to 226.

Meanwhile, the Belfast Health Trust is reporting more than 500 available nursing positions. When it comes to doctors there are about 113 unfilled posts in Belfast, with 44 in the Western Health Trust.

The figures are not a true reflection as the South Eastern Trust said they compiled their appointments and vacancies differently and did not supply any information.

Data from a BBC Freedom of Information request across the UK shows the extent of the NHS recruitment crisis - there are almost 23,500 nursing vacancies - equivalent to 9% of the workforce.

That has resulted in two of Northern Ireland's health trusts recruiting staff from abroad.

A spokesperson for the Southern Health Trust said: "There are currently 96 nursing posts in the recruitment system not yet allocated, which represents 4.5% of our nursing workforce.

"However, we have made conditional offers to a number of student nurses pending their results, which will cover these positions."

In a statement, Stormont's Department of Health said it has increased the total size of the health and social care workforce by 6% over the past five years and this year it has invested £12m to increase the number of nurses on general and specialist medical and surgical wards.

"Health and social care bodies have and continue to take steps to support recruitment and retention of staff. Regionally steps include development of overseas recruitment, increasing training numbers, and launch of a return to nursing campaign," the statement said.

"Investing in our workforce will continue to ensure that they have the capacity, knowledge and skills to support a world class service."

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