All but one of the trusts identified current nursing and operating department assistant staff vacancies in their theatres. The number of vacancies reported ranged from four to 26 - equivalent to 10 per cent overall.

On average, operating theatres were nine theatre staff short of the number needed to function at full capacity, and over half of those vacancies were D and E grade nurses.

Of the total vacancies identified, 24 per cent were ODAs, 11 per cent were A and B grade, 1 per cent C grade, 53.5 per cent D and E grade, 6 per cent F grade and 4.2 per cent G grade. This identifies a particular problem with ODAs, D and E grade nurses.

Twenty-seven trusts stated that they were having difficulties recruiting extra staff. The main reasons given were:

intense local competition;

an unskilled labour market;

high staff turnover due to stress.

An unskilled labour market has led to greater in-house training and use of agency staff. In one large acute trust, it costs£120,000 a year to train 11 ODA staff over a two-year period, in addition to paying inflated agency costs to sustain the training.

Eleven trusts were using local pay incentives. Staff were being paid on a sessional basis and receiving double time for waiting list initiative work. In addition, some trusts were offering bonus schemes.

One trust offered staff a£500 bonus for every six months they stayed with the hospital.

Trusts were asked how many weeks it took them to recruit enough staff to start the waiting list initiative.

Ten trusts said they were able to start immediately.

Eleven said it took between one and five weeks.

Eight said between six and 10 weeks.

Five said between 11 and 32 weeks.