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RCN reports big jump in nursing vacancies in Wales

28 Sep 2022 3 minute read
Photo Victoria Jones PA Images

Nursing vacancies across the NHS in Wales are expected to have increased by almost 70% in the last year according to figures released by the Royal College of Nursing in Wales.

The RCN’s annual report on the workforce in Wales estimates there are currently 2,900 registered nurse vacancies in the NHS, a 69% increase on 2021, when there were an estimated 1,719 vacancies.

Helen Whyley, RCN Wales director, said the data was “deeply troubling” and showed how “nurses are being pushed to the exit and are leaving the NHS”.

The report also refers to the 3% pay increase been offered to nurses, which the union claims would leave some experienced nurses over £1,000 worse off.

In response to the below-inflation pay award some unions, including RCN Wales, are set to ballot their members on industrial action in the coming weeks.


Ms Whyley told the Nursing Times that healthcare in Wales “is in crisis” and that nurses are “exhausted and under pressure”.

“There are 2,900 registered nurse vacancies in the NHS alone, a rise of nearly 1,200 from the previous year,” she said.

“This is deeply troubling and shows that nurses are being pushed to the exit and are leaving the NHS.”

Ms Whyley urged the government to “act now to safeguard patients and support the nursing workforce”, and “address nurse staffing levels to ensure environments where patients receive care are safe”.

The RCN report published today also urges the Welsh Government to publish national registered nurse vacancy data and for a national nursing retention strategy to be developed.

The report also repeats calls for the government to set out a timeline for expanding its safe nurse staffing law to community nursing and mental health inpatient wards.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: “We fully recognise the pressures on our healthcare professionals and the impact on their wellbeing.

“Staff wellbeing, engagement and retention are core priorities in our Workforce Strategy for Health and Social Care.

“That is why we are increasing staffing numbers through a range of retention and recruitment strategies, including international recruitment and record investment in education and training programmes.”


The Senedd will debate the expansion of safe nursing levels in Wales to cover mental health inpatient wards and community nursing later today, 28 September, following an RCN petition which received over 11,000 signatures.

The campaign has been supported by the Welsh Liberal Democrats, who introduced the original safe staffing levels legislation in 2016.

Speaking before the debate, Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said: “Maintaining nurse staffing levels is critical in ensuring patient safety. Having been introduced by the Welsh Liberal Democrats in the Senedd, I am fully committed to securing the extension of the Nurse Staffing Levels Act (2016).

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats want to see the Act extended to cover mental health inpatient, children’s wards, and community ward settings.

“This would go some way into relieving the pressure on nurses and ensuring a safer NHS for patients and staff alike.

“However, we also want to see the Welsh Government needs to go further on nurses pay so that we can better recruit and retain nurses here in Wales, especially and in light of the cost of living crisis.”

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