Nurses might be replaced by 'pharmacists or a physios' as hospitals struggle to fill vacancies

University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust say they are considering using pharmacists or physiotherapists to fill nursing vacancies.

The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust is struggling to fill more than 500 nursing vacancies and with that number ever-increasing, they are considering temporarily filling some roles with other staff.

Leicester's Chief Nurse told the Health Service Journal (HSJ) that the priority is patient care, she suggested options could include having a different ratio of registered nurses on some wards or filling gaps from other staffing groups.

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The news comes only days after the RCN called for an “urgent review” of hospital staffing levels after they warned patient safety and dignity is being put at risk by over-stretched services.

On Tuesday, Jeremy Hunt announced a 25% increase in nurse training places, an increase in the number of nursing associates and the introduction of nursing apprenticeships.

Julie Smith, Chief Nurse at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said;

"We have got a scenario where we have 500 vacancies and that is likely to grow.

"We have to make sure patients get the right care. Some of my nurses are doing tasks they don't need to do, they are cleaning bed spaces and giving out cups of tea, things other people can be trained to do.

"It might be that we replace a nurse with a pharmacist or a physio, I don't know yet. It depends on the level of care and the type of wards they are on.

"When we know what the boundaries for the nursing associates' scope of practice will be, it may be that on some of our wards, we do say we can have a different ratio of registered nurses."

The trust has said that it hasn't made any final decisions yet and changes would not be brought in without the approval of healthcare regulators.

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