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Latest figures on staff vacancies in the NHS released

NHS Digital has published the latest figures on staff vacancies in the NHS, providing a range of data sources to help build a picture of staffing levels in England.

Latest figures on staff vacancies in the NHS released

NHS Digital has published the latest figures on staff vacancies in the NHS, providing a range of data sources to help build a picture of staffing levels in England.

The NHS Vacancy Statistics, England publication provides experimental figures drawn from four different sources of recruitment information for the NHS, providing information on the number of advertised vacancies in the NHS1, broken down by sector, staff group and region.

Due to differences in methodology for each of the data sources, they cannot be directly compared to each other, only used to provide an indication of the vacancy situation in the NHS.

The current pandemic has caused significant disruption to recruitment activity within the NHS. While some critical recruitment increased in response to the situation, other elements were significantly reduced. Headline figures remain of immediate use, as they represent the situation as it was at the time, but year on year comparisons should be avoided.

NHS Jobs

Data from NHS Jobs shows the number of vacancies that have been advertised on the NHS Jobs website and therefore does not provide a complete view of vacancies in England.  This is because potential employers will use the site in different ways: they may not use the site at all; or they may use a single advertisement for multiple positions of the same type. The number of advertised vacancies should be considered as a minimum as one advertisement could be used to fill multiple vacancies1.

These figures have been included in the time series since April 2015 and can be used to consider how the level of advertised vacancies has changed over this time.

Electronic Staff Record (ESR)

ESR is the HR and payroll system for the NHS, containing staff records for over 99% of directly employed NHS staff in England. It shows information on vacant posts recorded within this system, with time series for this data starting at April 2016.  

However, as with NHS Jobs, the number of vacancies should be considered as a minimum as one vacant post in the system could be used to fill multiple vacancies.

Trac Recruitment Management Software (Trac)

Trac provides software for a number of NHS organisations, helping them with the end to end management of their recruitment process. Sitting between ESR and NHS Jobs, it provides information on parts of the recruitment process that are not covered by the first two data sources.  Data is provided on the number of advertised vacancies for the organisations that use the software. 

As with the previous two data sources, this data shows their minimum number of vacancies, as one advert may equate to more than one post available.

NHS England and NHS Improvement Management Information

Data for NHS England and NHS Improvement is management information that shows vacancies2 and vacancy rates3 at national and regional levels from Quarter 1, 2017/18 to Quarter 2, 2020/21.

This data includes the most vacancies but does not drill down below regional level or to detailed staff groups.

The data relates specifically to vacancies reported by individual NHS Trusts and is not directly comparable to other data included in this compendium publication due to differences in methodology and definitions.

Figures for NHSE/I vacancies are higher than the other data sources in the compendium report.  This is because those data sources report job advertisements, which are only open for a short time at the beginning of a recruitment process.

NHSE/I data starts a vacancy once it is first approved and ends it once final appointment is made, therefore including both vacancies that have not been advertised yet and those which were advertised in the preceding months but not yet appointed to.

Only active vacancies at the end of the reporting month are included in the collection, so it is not possible to identify how long a vacancy has been live or how many new vacancies have gone live within the month.

The aim of this data is to understand the current workforce gap rather than any other vacancy-related measure such as vacancies advertised per month. The information collected provides understanding of where variation exists across regions and sectors and can support decision-making for commissioning and recruitment policies.


Read the full report

The NHS Vacancy Statistics, England April 2015 - September 2020

Notes to editors

  1. It is not possible to state precise levels of undercounting, as the levels will vary per staff group. For example, the undercount for nurses is likely to be higher than for other staff groups due to issues such as the high level of rolling vacancies linked to generic posts within the ESR used for this staff group.
  2. 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.
  3. The vacancy rate is a calculation of the full-time equivalent number of vacancies as a percentage of planned full-time equivalent workforce levels.

NHS Digital is the national information and technology partner of the health and care system.  Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals depend.  During the 2019-20 financial year, NHS Digital published 285 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better.

For media enquiries please contact [email protected] or telephone 0300 30 33 888. Follow us on Twitter: @NHSDigital


Last edited: 26 November 2020 9:27 am