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Fall in HCA numbers, claims College

The number of healthcare assistants working in the NHS has fallen by  4,042 since 2010, figures highlighted today by the Royal College  of Nursing reveal.

The figures were published as part of the RCN’s Frontline First campaign which analyses data from the NHS Information Centre. It is the first time they have looked at figures for healthcare assistants.

RCN head of policy Howard Catton said while the reduction, which represents a small percentage of the overall workforce, could be acceptable if it was part of comprehensive workforce planning there was no evidence for that.

“It looks as if the changes to the numbers are driven by cuts,” he added.

The RCN also found a reduction of 4,837 full time equivalent registered nurses, midwives and health visitors between December 2009 and December 2012.

The RCN highlighted cuts to nursing posts as one of six “warning signs” that the UK is heading for a nursing shortage.

Other warning signs included increases in demand, a 13.7% cut in the number of pre-registration nurse training places commissioned over the last three years, and the high proportion of the workforce aged over 45 and so eligible for retirement in the near future.

The campaign, which publishes data regularly, also collects information on posts that have been put at risk by NHS trusts and foundation trusts. Researchers found 68,880 NHS posts had been earmarked to go between April 2010 and April 2015, with more than a third of these already gone.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said it was getting more difficult to obtain this information from trusts since the campaign began in 2010, suggesting the true number could be of posts at risk could be higher.

In February chief executive of the Centre for Workforce Intelligence Peter Sharp told Nursing Times a report they had compiled on behalf of the government identified a potential shortage of closer to 200,000 nurses by 2016.

Mr Carter said it was “very concerning” that the report had not been published yet and warned the shortage could force the NHS to recruit from countries overseas that could ill afford to lose their nursing workforce.

Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said it was for hospitals to decide how many nurses they need and highlighted proposals in the chief nursing officer’s strategy that trust’s should publish their staffing levels and the evidence to support them.

He added: “Overall, the number of clinical staff in the NHS has increased and the number of admin staff has fallen by 18,000. In future, there will be a Chief Inspector of Hospitals who will take action if Trusts are found to be compromising patient care by not having the right number of staff on wards.”

Readers' comments (7)

  • Wait! But who will they get to do the job of the qualified staff nurses who they aren't hiring any more? Oh well, there's always the cleaners!

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  • oh well less for the trained to keep an eye on thay say thay need more nuses and more h c a's will go for what we have to put up with hay ho! even more work for the moaning trained

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  • Anonymous | 24-Apr-2013 3:11 pm

    oh well less for the trained to keep an eye on thay say thay need more nuses and more h c a's will go for what we have to put up with hay ho! even more work for the moaning trained

    Not sure if you are an HCA but if so its this sort of attitude that is part of the problem. A lot of the "moaning trained" are not paid that much more than some HCAs yet they have all the responsibility and are accountable to professional bodies for their actions. I have yet to see an HCA stay behind unpaid after a shift to finish paperwork.

    I write this with apologies to all the hard working HCA's who work as part of a team.

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  • Most HCA's are hard working and worth threir weight in gold, but they are not qualified nurses.

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  • 24th-apr-2013 7:17 reply:-
    exactlly thankyou for your kind comment
    and i can relate it to some of the loverly qualified nurses but the is some that dont give to hoots about hca's only when the work is done this may some of their job's too i think hca's should keep to there basics then this will be part as team work and qualified staff will no one to blame if thay do it themselves if thing go wrong.

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  • Other reports say that there have been more HCAs employed than RNs, so what does that say about the number of RNs? I haven't the answer, just asking. Sounds like a total reduction in frontline staff.

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  • correct!!! as long as thay keep trained staff at each others necks thay are very happy

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