Working in any environment experiencing staff shortages can be incredibly challenging and have potentially serious consequences.
This is particularly true of nursing. New figures, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, suggest there were more than 23,400 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England, Wales and Nothern Ireland as of December 1 last year.
This is the equivalent to nine per cent of the workforce.
This is no surprise to the Royal College of Nursing.
Nursing posts are often the first target when savings need to be made, leading the NHS to find itself dangerously short and having to spend more on agency staff and recruitment from other countries. The UK is not training enough nurses to meet our needs and changes to student funding are yet another threat to future staff numbers.
The consequences are felt by nursing staff and patients alike - nurses work under relentless pressure and patients face delays and unmet needs. Tackling the problem is made no easier because vacancies are no longer collected, held or published centrally so we could effectively assess work force gaps nationally.
Freedom of Information allows us some insight but is by no means perfect.
The gap between NHS staff needed and staff available must now be reduced as a matter of urgency.
Carol Evans, Chair, Eastern Region Board, Royal College of Nursing