'Static' Hospital Staffing Levels Revealed

As staffing levels were being blamed this week for the imminent closure of a major south Belfast Casualty unit, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) has today released details of the NI Health and Social Care (HSC) workforce.

There was 3,916 (or 3,636 'Whole-time Equivalent') medical and dental staff at March this year working in hospital and community settings, excluding GPs - or near static levels from last year's figures.

This is an increase of just a marginal 1% since March 2010.

Of interest - given the apparent shortage of A&E consultants at Belfast City Hospital - just over a third (37%) of this group were classed as consultants.

The Belfast Health Trust told a meeting of the Board on Wednesday that a 'temporary' move to close the south Belfast facility's A&E was not 'funding-led' but 'safety-led', because of a lack of qualified senior medial staff.

Originally the unit had been expected to close at the end of September, but an extension of the deadline was facilitated by the loan of two A&E consultants from the Ulster hospital.

Now, the new publication presents an analysis of staff in post by occupational family, main location, gender, working pattern and age.

It also gives details of staff turnover between April 2010 and March 2010, as well as summary information on vacancies.

At March 2011, the NI HSC employed around 78,000 people, including bank / sessional staff.
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The workforce accounted for around 10% of all persons in employment in Northern Ireland, and is the largest and most complex workforce.

Also important was the fact that the total of 'front-line' staff combined, including medical and dental workers, qualified nurses and allied health professionals experienced a decrease of 1.0% between March 2010 and March 2011 and that the total of administration and clerical staff also decreased by 3.3% between March 2010 and March 2011.

The largest staff group was Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting staff, which, including nurse support staff, comprised 33% of the total WTE NI workforce. Approaching one-half (46%) of these worked part-time.

Professional and technical staff increased slightly by 0.7% between March 2010 and March 2011.

On staff turnover, while nursing staff had the highest volume of leavers at 897 (for the year April 2010 to March 2011), this represented the second lowest leaving rate at 4.3%. The joining rate, however, decreased to 2.3%.

The Belfast Trust, as the largest HSC employer in NI, employed over two-fifths (42%) of the entire HSC Medical & Dental workforce.

The Northern HSC Trust employed over a quarter (26%) of all Social Services staff working in NI HSC organisations.

Nursing, Health Visiting and Midwifery staff makes up the largest proportion of total staff employed within each of the five HSC Trusts, comprising between 31% - 37% of their total workforce.

See: City Hospital's A&E To Close Within Weeks


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