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FRONT line staffing levels at hospitals in the borough are still rising, despite the recession.

Figures released through a Freedom of Information request reveal that recruitment continues apace at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust.

There were 1,476 medical employees (doctors, surgeons, nurses, midwives etc) working at WWL in March 2011.

This had risen to 1,523 in March 2012 and as of November 14, there were 1,564 on the payroll.

In February WWL announced that a £2.1m injection into front line services would create 50 more full-time staff nurses and a further 33 nursing support staff across the three main sites in the borough.

Despite being tasked with making savings of £13.8m before April this year, the trust is still recruiting front line staff as part of a £70m investment programme which will include an new oncology unit at Wigan Infirmary.

Recruitment is also rising, with 246 taken on in 2011/12 as opposed to 194 the previous year.

A WWL spokeswoman said: “WWL was delighted to announce, at the beginning of the year, that we were investing £2.1m to increase our nursing and support staff.

“This translated into the equivalent of 50 more full time staff nurses and a further 33 nursing support staff. The additional staff are working at ward level across all our hospitals. Recruitment has been ongoing since the start of the year and although there remains a small number of vacancies (covered by temporary staff), we are really beginning to see the vacancies.

“We have also recruited additional nursing and medical staff to support the re-design of our assessment areas.

“As we have appointed quite a few newly qualified staff, we have enhanced our preceptorship and mentorship programmes to support these nurses.

“In recent years, we are pleased to have significantly reduced patient pressure ulcers, infections and falls.

“By investing in our frontline workforce, we can go even further to continue to improve patient care and allow our nurses more time to care for our patients.”

The news shows that despite huge cuts in budgets and staffing levels at other health trusts in Greater Manchester, jobs and investment are still ongoing in Wigan.

Pauline Jones, Acting Director of Nursing, said: “We are very proud of our nursing investment programme.

“Having the correct staffing levels and skill mix is vital to ensuring we deliver safe, effective patient care and also improves staff morale.”