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Interest in nursing jobs declines

As election manifestos address NHS workforce shortages, research finds that interest in nursing jobs has fallen over the past two years

The number of people searching for UK nursing jobs has fallen by nearly a fifth in the past two years, according to research from Indeed.

Its analysis of data from the website found that job searches for nursing roles fell by 17.4% between October 2017 and October 2019, suggesting recruiting for these positions on a large scale could be challenging.

Indeed’s analysis also found that the decline in job searches for nurse roles was higher in some parts of the UK.

One of the biggest drops was in Manchester, where searches have fallen by 19.1% in the past two years. Interest in Birmingham fell by 14.4%, and London (which employs the largest number of nurses of any region in the UK) also reduced by 13.6%.

The most recent NHS figures showed there were 287,457 nurses and health visitors in full-time employment in England in August 2019, a 3.9% increase from 276,763 five years ago, and a 3.2% rise over the past decade.

However, there were also 39,520 nursing vacancies in England in the first quarter of 2019 meaning around 11% of roles were vacant.

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

The research comes as the major political parties have all made promises to boost the NHS workforce in the run-up to the general election.

The Conservative party's manifesto has promised to recruit 50,000 more nurses, although subsequent reports suggested that this figure included 18,500 existing nurses who will be encouraged to remain in the NHS.

Labour did not commit to recruiting a specific number of new nurses, but pledged to “end the crisis in our health and care service”, provide training bursaries for nurses, and roll out pay rises in real terms every year.

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

Bill Richards, UK managing director at Indeed, said that even a small drop in interest could affect the NHS workforce.

“Nurses are the bedrock of the NHS, providing vital support in hospitals and GP surgeries, but with an 11% vacancy rate even a small fall in jobseeker interest makes an enormous difference to staffing levels," he said.

He added that the NHS must look to different talent pools to attract more people to the profession.

“With both private and public sector employers competing hard for every recruit the NHS could tap into multiple talent pools, persuading tens of thousands more people to train to be nurses, or luring former nurses back into the profession," he said.

“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 that provides variety and opportunity.”