THE county has a shortage of at least 100 mental health nurses as the battle to hire and keep staff in the NHS continues.

NHS bosses in Worcestershire said many of the mental health service roles are currently being filled with temporary staff because of the shortage.

A report, which was discussed by Worcestershire County Council’s health and overview scrutiny committee at a meeting on Friday (June 10) said: “Mental health has a registered nursing shortage [of around] 10,000 nationally and across Herefordshire and Worcestershire the shortage is circa 100-plus nurses.

“International recruitment does not provide the same options for mental health nursing as it does for general nurses.

“New investments in mental health services, while positive, have resulted in many staff moving to roles in new services which increases the pressure on remaining core registered nursing roles.”

At least £39 million is being spent every year by the NHS to fill more than a thousand vacancies with temporary and expensive agency staff.

Speaking about the reliance on agency workers to fill the gaps across the NHS, Sarah Dugan, chief executive of Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, told councillors there were around a third of positions left unfilled in some mental health teams across the two counties.

“It’s very variable in the hotspots. For example, in community mental health, we have got much higher rates. We’ve got teams with 30 per cent vacancies, so you might have 30 per cent bank or agency [staff].

“It’s partly a good thing because we’ve had an investment in those services so we now have more vacancies than we did before. If that makes sense.

“It’s an absolute priority for us to recruit those vacancies as fast as possible.”

Figures reveal that staff turnover has been increasing over the last few years and was 15 per cent in the last 12 months.

At least eight per cent of staff have left the NHS altogether.

Exhausted staff said “sustained pressure” was the main reason for quitting and the services are said to be “increasingly fragile” due to staff leaving and retiring.