Hundreds of nurses are missing from the staff rosters of south-west London's major hospitals and other health trusts, according to research by the Royal College of Nursing.

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The union filed Freedom of Information requests with hospitals across the capital which found that up to 30 per cent of nursing posts were vacant in some areas, with a number of trusts in our region reporting a fifth or more posts unfilled last summer.

The group's London branch claimed "historic cuts to training places, plus the ongoing pay freeze imposed by the Government, meant many London trusts were unable to find as many permanent staff as they need".

RCN London regional director Bernell Bussue said: "London faces a critical shortage of registered nursing staff.

"The problem is partly down to shortsighted workforce planning which saw training posts cut in the past, meaning there aren’t enough home-grown nurses coming through the system.

"Most importantly, the ongoing pay freeze imposed by the Government means that nursing staff increasingly just can’t afford to live and work in London."

Croydon University Hospital, Epsom and St Helier hospitals and Kingston Hospital all reported a fifth or more of nursing posts were unfilled in July last year.

South West London and St George's mental health trust (SWLStG), which serves Kingston, Sutton, Wandsworth, Merton and Richmond, said 30 per cent of its nursing posts were empty.

An Epsom and St Helier spokesman said: "In 2015 we maintained a relentless focus on recruitment across our organisation.

"We have recruited 303 nurses since April 2015, helping us to significantly reduce our vacancy rate and halve our agency spend."

Mandy Stevens, SWLStG's interim director of nursing, said: "There is a well-recognised system-wide issue in the recruitment of mental health nurses across the country, with increased demand in London, and we have an assertive recruitment campaign to attract more nurses.

"Our vacancy rate for nurses in December 2015 was 26 per cent and we are working hard to reduce this further still."