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Publication, Part of

NHS Vacancy Statistics England, April 2015 - March 2023, Experimental Statistics

Experimental statistics, Official statistics


This is the latest compendium publication in the NHS Vacancy Statistics series containing data from:

  • NHS England (NHSE)
  • NHS Jobs
  • the Electronic Staff Record (ESR)
  • Trac Recruitment Management Software (Trac)

Vacancy related data is provided for the NHS in England and is defined as "a post that is unfilled by permanent or fixed-term staff".

The figures included in this series for NHS Jobs, ESR and Trac provide a range of proxy data sources for NHS vacancies. The series also includes management information related to vacancies within the NHS which have been collected by NHSE.

Users should note these data do not indicate how much of the reported substantive gap is filled by temporary staff.

Due to the complex nature of how NHS vacancy data is defined and collected, all data sources should be treated with a degree of caution.

Each data source reports slightly different numbers for the same time period, they are based on different parameters and whilst considering the same vacancies, they do so in different ways – the numbers should not be combined and should only be used separately. A vacancy remains open for the entirety of the recruitment process whilst it is only advertised for a short part of that time, hence the figures for NHSE are significantly higher as they include vacancies that have been advertised in previous months but for which the recruitment process has not yet completed.

More information regarding data quality can be found in the accompanying Data Quality Annex. In making any judgements from these data, we would advise also looking at the Summary tab of the publication tables which describes some of the uses and limitations of each of the data sources.

NHS Digital and NHS England merged to become NHS England on 1 February 2023.


The NHS Vacancies Survey pre-dates this NHS Vacancy Statistics series. It was a collection that one of NHS England’s predecessor organisations published, and was available from at least 2005 until it ceased with a final publication relating to data up to 31 March 2010. It should be noted that this data collection was discontinued primarily as a result of significant data quality concerns having been identified, which when coupled with the burden its collection and analysis required, was considered to outweigh its value. Therefore, the collection was stopped as part of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) fundamental review of data collections. Any interpretation of this historic data should be taken with caution.

Following the discontinuation of the NHS Vacancies Survey there was a gap in data related to vacancies until 2015 when the NHS Vacancy Statistics series commenced.

The two publication series are based on entirely different methodologies, so the data is not comparable. There should be a clear gap between any analysis of data from the NHS Vacancies Survey and that published as part of the new NHS Vacancy Statistics series.

Vacancy Definition

Along with other members of the Workforce Information Review Group (WIRG), NHS Digital set up a national sub-group to look at vacancy related information, including developing a consistent definition for a vacancy in order to influence and improve vacancy related data.

Together the group agreed a definition of vacancies and vacancy rates which was consistent with the definition used for the NHS Provider collection currently undertaken by NHSE.

Further information about these definitions can be found below and via the following link:



A vacancy is defined as a post that is unfilled by permanent or fixed-term staff. Some vacant posts may be filled by agency or temporary staff, but these posts are still considered to be vacancies.

The number of vacancies is the difference between the number of reported full-time equivalent (FTE) permanent or fixed-term staff in post and planned workforce levels (i.e. the total funded or budgeted establishment on an FTE basis). The number of vacancies is on an FTE basis.

The vacancy rate is a calculation of the FTE number of vacancies as a percentage of planned FTE workforce levels.


Detail and clarification

  1. FTE stands for full-time equivalent.
  2. This definition describes what could be considered notional vacancies, i.e. the gap between establishment and actual staff in post, on an FTE basis. This measure does not directly address questions around hard to fill vacancies, provision shortfalls, recruitment activity or natural churn. However, it can be provided by trusts on a consistent basis that allows appropriate comparisons across the system.
  3. The number and rate of vacancies can be derived on aggregate or partitioned into appropriate staff groupings.
  4. The number of vacancies is calculated as the planned FTE workforce minus the reported FTE staff in post.

i.e. Vacant Posts (FTE) = Planned Workforce (FTE) - Staff in Post (FTE)

  1. The vacancy rate, as a percentage, is the FTE number of vacancies divided by the FTE planned workforce, multiplied by 100.

i.e. Vacancy Rate (%) = [ Vacant Posts (FTE) ÷ Planned Workforce (FTE) ] x 100

  1. Planned workforce (establishment) is taken at a specified point in time and includes only budgeted posts.
  2. FTE permanent or fixed-term staff in post refers to that at a specified point in time. It does not include additional hours/overtime, bank or other non-substantive employees such as agency staff.


Note on the current NHSE collection

As NHSE collects vacancy FTE from providers on a monthly basis, this monthly rate is defined as the total number of unfilled posts reported at the end of each respective reporting month. It is therefore important when reviewing trends in vacancy data, that a comparison to the same period in the previous year is used to ensure expected monthly variation associated with planned recruitment cycles is not interpreted as genuine change to current vacancy levels.

Last edited: 25 May 2023 9:31 am