Startling figures have revealed the workforce struggles that Bolton’s NHS is facing, as well as health services continuing to struggle across the UK.

The latest figures from NHS Digital show there were the equivalent of 537 full-time doctors as of April at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust.

This was up from 512 last year and 476 in April 2016 – when comparable figures for all professions began – equating to a rise of 13 per cent over the last six years.

But the workforce figures, which provide a snapshot overview, do not account for the number of health care workers who joined and left the NHS in between counts, nor do they indicate how staffing levels compare to demand for services.

Since 2015, there has been a large number of staff that have joined each year.

For example in 2015 515 joined the trust, but more than half of that number (478) of people left that year.

This has been the same pattern each year, where there has been a large recruitment drive, but a large number of staff leaving.

The most recent figures show that in 2021 766 members of staff joined Bolton NHS Trust, whilst 611 left, further highlighting the issue with staff turnover.

This was however a period of even more pressure during the pandemic, which could be the reason for the turnover.

The Bolton News: Staff joining and leaving Bolton NHS Foundation TrustStaff joining and leaving Bolton NHS Foundation Trust

Carol Sheard, deputy director of people at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are proud to have been recognised for the fourth year running as the best place to work in Greater Manchester in the annual NHS Staff Survey.

“Our staff are the heartbeat of our organisation, and they do a fantastic job, in sometimes challenging circumstances, to provide the highest levels of care for Bolton’s communities.

“We never stop looking for ways to make Bolton NHS Foundation Trust an even better place to work, with multiple staff benefits, training, learning and development opportunities and our dedicated staff networks.”

A recent report from a cross-party group of MPs led by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government must tackle "the greatest workforce crisis in history in the NHS" as it deals with the aftereffects of the pandemic.

The study by the Health and Social Care Committee criticised the absence of a long-term plan to address stalling recruitment and persistent short staffing, adding that the NHS is currently in need of tens of thousands of workers.

Dr Amit Kochhar, British Medical Association (BMA) international committee deputy chair, said: “The staff working in the NHS are its greatest asset and whether they trained in the UK or further afield, they all make invaluable contributions to patient care.

“The NHS is facing a workforce crisis and since well before the pandemic has struggled to recruit and retain staff.

“As of December 2021, more than 110,000 posts in secondary care are vacant, almost 8,200 of which are medical posts.

“High vacancies create a vicious cycle: shortages produce environments of chronic stress, which increases pressure on existing staff, and in turn encourages higher turnover and absence.”

There are fewer midwives across the country than last year – the figures show there were the equivalent of 21,741 working full-time hours in April, down from 22,374 last year.

It comes as the MPs’ report says 2,000 more midwives are urgently needed to address staffing shortages.

At the Bolton trust there were 186 midwives in April – down from 209 last year.

The Royal College of Midwives said people are leaving the industry because "morale is shattered".

Suzanne Tyler, executive director at the RCM, said: "Employers and the government must step up, put in the resources, and show they really value their staff."

The Department of Health and Social Care said it has commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term workforce plan.

A spokesperson said: "We are growing the health and social care workforce, with over 4,000 more doctors, and 9,600 more nurses compared to last year, and over 1,400 more doctors in general practice compared to March 2019.

"As we continue to deliver on our commitment to recruit 50,000 more nurses by 2024, we are also running a £95m recruitment drive for maternity services."