THE number of nurses in East Lancashire’s hospitals has risen significantly in the last five years, new figures have revealed.

Nursing and midwifery staff have risen from 2,921 working in 2008 to 3,582 this year.

Lynn Wissett, chief nurse at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Nurses form the largest group of staff within the trust and are a crucial part of the healthcare team.

“The number of nurses has increased as the number of patients treated continues to rise.

“We are currently in the process of recruiting to both permanent and temporary-bank nursing posts as we seek to create a flexible and patient centred workforce throughout winter pressures and beyond.”

ELHT is currently advertising a further 12 more vacancies for full and part-time staff.

Recruitment campaigns for other health professionals are on-going but are no longer advertised as they are either at the interview or pre-employment stages of the process.

The figures come following the Lancashire Telegraph’s report in August which found temporary agency nursing staff cost ELHT £9.3 million in 2011/12.

Thetrust has managed a 15 per cent cost reduction by establishing an in-house staff bank, and has an electronic rostering system aimed at controlling spending and improving staff performance.

Mrs Wissett said: “The Trust is in the fortunate position to be able to provide our own internal nursing bank agency to all services within the trust, therefore allowing us to co-ordinate and develop supplementary staffing to support and improve patient care.”

Sickness absence among staff at ELHT for 2011/12 was on average 4.19 per cent per month, above the expected threshold of 3.75 per cent last year.

She said: “Our staff bank is able to provide 97 per cent cover to all our nursing shifts offering skilled, experienced, familiar nursing staff instead of using external agency staff.”