HOSPITAL bosses have strongly disputed figures produced by a national NHS agency that show it has high numbers of nurse and midwife vacancies.

NHS Digital said that 437 job openings for nurses and midwives were advertised by East Lancashire Hospitals Trust between July and September 2018, 60 per cent more than over the same period in 2017, when 269 were posted.

But the trust said the information body's figures were factually incorrect.

Christine Pearson, director of nursing at East Lancashire Hospitals Trust, said: “The trust strongly disputes the statistics released by NHS Digital which are factually incorrect and misrepresent the much lower number of nursing vacancies at East Lancashire Hospitals.

“Despite a national shortage, at the end of 2018 we employed 2,318 registered nurses and midwives to care for patients at our five hospitals and in the community.

“As of today, we have 255 nursing and midwifery vacancies across all settings, more than we would like but far fewer than the number reported by NHS Digital.

“The trust continues to successfully recruit nurses locally, nationally and internationally to ensure we maintain safe staffing levels on all our wards.

Ms Pearson added: “In addition, we are more successful in retaining our existing nursing workforce with the number of nurses who leave the trust each year (5.2 per cent) much lower than the national average (11 per cent).

“Our future nursing workforce is also shaping up well.

“In partnership with the University of Central Lancashire, we welcomed our largest ever single intake of students in January (133) and we have 377 student nurses in training and on placement at the start of what we hope will be long and successful careers with us.”

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said he was worried staff shortages will hit patient care.

He said: “There is a pressure to recruit nurses in all areas of the country.

“Brexit is having a massive impact as the uncertainty for EU nurses is putting them off working in the NHS.

“I fear that staff shortages will lead to increasing pressure on staff and will impact on the quality of patient care.”