Hospital trusts witness employee growth despite NHS staffing crisis

Hospital ward

Both ESNEFT and West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust have seen an increase in staff numbers since before the pandemic - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The region's NHS hospital trusts have seen steady growth in staff numbers over the last four years.

The news comes despite a damning national report which found the health service to be facing the worst staffing crisis in its history. 

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), which runs both Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals, saw a jump from 10,084 staff members in May 2019 to 11,606 in May 2022. 

This means the trust has witnessed an increase of over 1,500 employees since before the pandemic. 

Ipswich Hospital sign

ESNEFT, which runs both Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals, saw an increase of over 1,5000 employees since before the pandemic - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, in Bury St Edmunds, have witnessed an increase of 865 during the same time period in both hospital and community healthcare settings, with figures rising from 4,045 in 2019 to 4,910 in 2022 so far. 

Since the start of this year 432 members of staff have been recruited.

In a bid to combat staff shortages in the past, both trusts have looked to recruit from abroad.

In recent years, ESNEFT have hired midwives from Zimbabwe, while West Suffolk Hospital have looked to areas such as the Caribbean and South Africa.

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However, between May 2019 and May 2022, ESNEFT also saw a rise of 93 vacancies, with the trust now having 952 open unfilled roles.  

West Hospital sign

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, have also witnessed an increase during the same time period - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

The figure has also almost doubled since 2020, which had 575 open roles.

However, vacancies do tend to be prone to fluctuation as a result of seasonal changes in demand. 

We requested details on staff vacancies for West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust but did not receive a response.

Chief nurse, Giles Thorpe

Giles Thorpe, chief nurse at ESNEFT - Credit: ESNEFT

Giles Thorpe, chief nurse at ESNEFT, said: “We have focused heavily on recruitment and retention over the past two years, and this has made a substantial difference in stabilising our workforce here at ESNEFT, but we are not complacent.

“Both our nursing and recruitment teams are dedicated to making ESNEFT a great place to work and train. We have a strong, ongoing recruitment programme and we are committed to offering a job to every student nurse who trains with us. Our international recruitment programmes have also been very successful."

Jeremy Over, executive director of workforce and communications at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Jeremy Over, West Suffolk's executive director of workforce and communications - Credit: WEST SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

Jeremy Over, West Suffolk's executive director of workforce and communications, said the trust worked hard to be an attractive employer to new joiners while provide professional development to current staff to stay part of Suffolk's health and care system.

He said: “We will continue to grow our workforce as we respond to the needs of our patients and develop our services. Whilst these data show a level of progress in our recruitment in recent years, the current situation remains challenging, as it is across the NHS.

"I would like to express our sincere appreciation to West Suffolk colleagues for all their continued care and dedication for patients and their loved ones.”