NOT enough nurses are working on many wards at Colchester General Hospital, new figures reveal.

A new directive by NHS England has forced hospital trusts to disclose nursing levels on every hospital ward.

Colchester Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has revealed there are so many unfilled vacancies on eight wards, the situation had been added to the management’s “risk register”.

At Birch Ward, where elderly patients are treated, the matron has been trying to leave beds empty because there are ten unfilled nursing vacancies, plus staff on long-term sick leave.

The emergency assessment unit has eight vacancies, two nurses and one healthcare assistant on long-term sick leave and three more staff undertaking only light duties.

On the Wivenhoe surgical ward, the number of beds have been reduced from 34 to 28 after a series of resignations which will leave more than 11 full-time posts vacant.

Although 120 nurses were recruited fromSpain last year, 35 have left. Some have returned home, while many are now working in London.

The trust says overall there is an 8.2 per cent vacancy rate among its 1,500-strong nursing workforce.

A spokesman said the number of nurses increased by 85 between April and December last year.

He added: “It is proving more difficult to recruit to some specialties than others, including care of the elderly, stroke and the emergency department.

“In the interim, we are using bank and agency staff.”

Newly-qualified nurses are being offered “rotational” posts where they spend six months on different wards to increase their experience. In total, 80 per cent of hospital trusts missed their nurse staffing targets.