More than 86,000 NHS posts were vacant between January 2017 and March 2017, figures for the NHS in England suggest. Statistics from NHS Digital, which collates data, shows the number of vacancies climbed by almost 8,000 compared to the same period in 2016.
Nurses and midwives accounted for the highest proportion of shortages, with 11,400 vacant posts in March 2017. The Department of Health said staffing was a priority and that more money was being invested in frontline staff. The data includes job adverts published on the NHS Jobs website between February 2015 and March 2017.
The figures suggest there were 30,613 full-time equivalent vacancies in England advertised on the website in the month March 2017 - the highest month on record since collection of this type of data began in February 2015.
Nursing and midwifery vacancies have topped the list since these figures have been collated. The data includes adverts for doctors, dentists, administrative, clerical staff and technical and scientific staff. The figures do not include vacancies for GPs or practice staff.
And, as other ways of advertising NHS jobs - including adverts seeking overseas applicants - exist, NHS officials say caution must be used when interpreting the results.
Meanwhile, a Department of Health spokesperson said: "Staffing is a priority - that is why we have invested in the frontline and there are almost 32,400 more professionally qualified clinical staff including almost 11,800 more doctors, and over 12,500 more nurses on our wards since May 2010."
Janet Davies, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said low pay and "relentless pressure" meant many nursing were leaving the profession.
"At the very moment the NHS needs to be recruiting more nursing staff, we learn the number is falling and the NHS finds itself advertising for more jobs we know it cannot fill," she said. "A lethal cocktail of factors is resulting in too few nurses and patient care is suffering. More people are leaving nursing than joining - deterred by low pay, relentless pressure and new training costs. For the sake of patient safety, the Chancellor must scrap the cap on pay and help to fill the tens of thousands of vacant nurse jobs."
By Smitha Mundasad
Health reporter, BBC
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