More than 1,260 have left the NHS in the past year alone and health chiefs fear the exodus will grow as experienced staff take advantage of early retirement clauses in their contracts.
NHS chief executive Simon Stevens has also warned that the benefit of the £1billion pledged by David Cameron is unlikely to be felt until 2018. NHS boss Jim Mackey told the NHS Confederation Mental Health Network annual conference that “there is no cavalry coming”. Nursing recruitment is in crisis with vacancy levels averaging 10 per cent and a shortfall of 25,000 posts leading to huge bills for agency nurses to plug gaps. The Government has scrapped education bursaries so student nurses now apply for loans like other students.
The impact of the changes is likely to be felt more acutely in the mental health sector where recruits tend to be older and will struggle to afford the fees and student loan debts. Howard Catton, of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This is a massive roll of the dice.
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