Estimates of NHS Wales vacancies based on the difference between budgeted and actual staff numbers on 31 December 2022.
NHS Wales vacancy statistics are published as experimental statistics as the underpinning data collection process is newly created and continues to be under development while it is being embedded uniformly across all NHS organisations.
These statistics are published as there is wide public interest. We welcome feedback on their suitability and quality as this new process is being developed.
The data collection process was designed and will be developed further in consultation with all NHS organisations.
On 31 December 2022, the estimated number of FTE vacancies across all staff groups in NHS Wales was 4,966. The estimated vacancy rate was 5.3%.
The estimated number of FTE vacancies by each staff group was:
- 426 in medical and dental staff (excluding trainees), with an estimated vacancy rate of 8.9%
- 2,409 in registered nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff, with an estimated vacancy rate of 8.9%
- 813 in nursing, midwifery and health visiting support staff, with an estimated vacancy rate of 6.2%
- 833 in the combined groups of ‘administration and estates’, and ‘health care assistants and other support staff’, with an estimated vacancy rate of 2.9%
- 362 in the scientific, therapeutic and technical staff group, with an estimated vacancy rate of 2.2%
- 122 in the ambulance staff group, with an estimated vacancy rate of 3.6%
It is likely that these statistics under-estimate the number of NHS vacancies.
The statistics are published with a data quality statement that highlights a number of data quality issues. Taken in isolation, some of the issues have the effect of over-estimating the number of vacancies and some have the effect of under-estimating the number of vacancies. When all the known issues are considered as a whole, it is thought that the issues which result in an under-estimate of the number of vacancies at the Wales-level, have a greater effect on the statistics than the over-estimating effects.
Definitions and methods
For the purpose of this statistical release a ‘vacancy’ is defined as the difference between the number of funded full-time equivalent (FTE) posts as recorded on the finance general ledger, and the number of FTE staff in post as recorded on the Electronic Staff Record (ESR) at a point in time. The vacancy rate is the number of vacancies divided by the number of funded FTE posts recorded on the general ledger.
Staff groups are determined by the subjective code which is a data item in both the finance general ledger and ESR. It has the same defined list of values which should be applied consistently between both sources.
These statistics include only those staff directly employed by NHS Wales. The statistics exclude primary care contractors such as General Medical Practitioners and Dental Practitioners.
These statistics are classed as experimental statistics. This means that they are in the testing phase and not yet fully developed.
We have identified a number of data quality issues which will be worked on in coming months. Users should bare this in mind when comparing the next set of published data on NHS Wales vacancies. New NHS vacancy statistics will be published quarterly and the next edition of this release has been provisionally announced for publication on 9 August 2023. Statistics at NHS organisation level will be published in future editions of this release, once further data quality checks have been implemented.
The methodology has been applied consistently across the majority of NHS organisations. One local health board was unable to supply the number of funded FTE posts through the finance general ledger, but supplied the number of paid FTE staff in post through the finance general ledger as an approximation. This is likely to result in the under-reporting of vacancies in this health board as the number of paid FTE staff is likely to be lower than the number of budgeted FTE staff.
The data collection method also resulted in two other health boards reporting a very low number of vacancies across some staff groups. The reasons for this are being investigated but the data provided is unlikely to be a fully-accurate reflection of vacancies at the time and means that there was a likely under-reporting of vacancies in these health boards.
Any staff recorded as doctors in training, dentists in training, or pre-registration pharmacists, are not included in this release. There are complexities in counting ‘vacancies’ of these types of posts as local health boards hold a budget for these staff but the majority will be employed by NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership through the Single Lead Employer scheme. Health boards can also employ staff coded as trainees directly, without them being formal trainees through the Single Lead Employer. Measuring vacancies of these types of staff will be developed in future months, but the ‘up-take’ of these types of posts may be more accurately measured using ‘fill rates’ which are collected by Health Education and Improvement Wales.
There can be a negative number of vacancies or vacancy rate if the number of staff in post on ESR exceeds the budgeted number of staff through the finance general ledger. This can happen where an NHS organisation knowingly over-recruits and/or where certain non-recurrent or short-term post funding is not included in the finance general ledger. Where funding for posts exists but is not recorded on the finance general ledger and staff are employed through that funding, the number of vacancies reported would be an under-estimate of the actual number of vacancies in the reference period.
The number of vacancies in the medical and dental staff group may be over-estimated due to differences in how FTEs are counted between the finance general ledger and ESR. A full-time member of this staff group may count as 1 FTE on ESR through their contract defined as 10 sessions per week. However, in practice some staff may work 12 sessions per week and may be recorded as 1.2 FTE on the finance general ledger. This would create a ‘vacancy’ of 0.2 through this data collection process, but in practice there was no vacancy as the staff member worked longer than their contracted hours.
FTE staff in post on ESR do not normally include bank, agency, contractors or other non-payroll staff. This may result in a small over-estimate of the number of vacancies and vacancy rate as there may have been staff delivering services but not recorded on ESR on the reference date.
Vacancies for ‘administration and estates’, and ‘health care assistants and other support staff’ have been published as a combined staff group for 31 December 2022 as there may be some inconsistencies in how certain staff roles are coded between these two staff groups across NHS organisations.
Data for 31 December 2022 does not include the Finance Delivery Unit or the NHS Wales Health Collaborative (which are hosted by Public Health Wales), where just under 180 FTE staff were employed. It is planned that these units will be included in future editions of this statistical release.
As staff move posts, updates to FTEs per subjective code may be more timely on the finance general ledger than they are to the staff in post numbers through ESR. Therefore, there may be a small discrepancy in the number of vacancies reported and the actual number of vacancies on the reference date.
Not all services within local health boards aim to recruit the full number of FTE budgeted staff. Some services may choose to use their staff budget flexibly to deliver their priorities and/or may choose to use their pool of temporary staff (nurse bank, locums, agency) flexibly throughout the year as demands on the service change. Therefore, a small number of reported ‘vacancies’ are planned in some circumstances.
Allocating staff to a subjective code in both the finance general ledger and on ESR involve manual processes and may result in a small number of staff having a mismatch of subjective codes between the two sources.
There are likely to be seasonal effects on the number of vacancies and the vacancy rate, which particularly effects ‘medical and dental’ and the ‘registered nursing, midwifery and health visiting’ staff groups as newly qualified staff graduate (and become available for recruitment) at certain times in the year only.
Statistics on NHS vacancies are published by the other UK countries: NHS England vacancy statistics; NHS Scotland workforce statistics; and the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care vacancy statistics. All four UK countries use different data collection methods to produce these statistics, reflecting the complex challenge of producing vacancy statistics, and are therefore not directly comparable. NHS England produce four different methods to calculate vacancies and views on recruitment information for NHS England. Out of all the methods used in the other three UK countries, the NHS England (NHSE) method is most similar to how the data has been collected in Wales and more work is planned to assess the comparability between both of these methods.
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