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NHS employee headcount down by 20,000


More than 12,000 NHS job posts have not been filled after people have retired, quit or moved on to other organisations, figures suggest.

Between May 2011 and May this year, there were 89,926 people who left the NHS in England but just 77,522 of the roles were filled, data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows.

The figures, based on NHS hospital and community health service staff, showed that the overall headcount of employees has reduced by almost 20,000 people since September 2009.

The number of people classed as “NHS infrastructure support” workers fell by about 20,000 from from 236,000 to 216,000 from 2009 to 2012. Managers and senior managers lost 5,000 and 2,000 positions respectively.

Health minister Anne Milton said: “There are 2,400 more clinical staff working in the NHS than there were two years ago in May 2010, including over 3,700 more doctors, and over 900 extra midwives.

“In contrast, the number of admin staff has fallen by over 17,500, creating savings that will be reinvested into frontline patient care.

“Funding will increase by £12.5 billion over the next three years, protecting the NHS for the future.”

The figures showed that qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff posts have reduced by almost 5,000 in the last two years.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the reduction of posts would have an impact on patient care.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “It simply isn’t right to suggest that you can take these posts away without damaging patient care.

“Our members tell us every day about a health service which could easily buckle under the strain of delivering more care with fewer staff. Cutting staff is a short-sighted and ultimately futile way of attempting to save money, as patients can end up waiting longer and being more seriously ill by the time they are treated.

“Instead of cutting frontline staff, the NHS should pursue better planned, managed and designed services which keep people as well as possible and out of hospital. The RCN will continue to oppose job cuts locally and nationally on behalf of our members and the patients they care for.”



Readers' comments (12)

  • 38% Turnover of staff in one year!! The organaisions I provide management support to would sack me if couldn't improve on those figures 10% turnover is to high!
    Steve Carroll

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  • Actually 89,926 out of the 1.4m who work for the NHS in England (source is 6.42%. Unless I'm wrong (happy to be proven so) the organisations you work for might start looking elsewhere for consultancy.

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  • We seem to go over this same ground again and again... Will NHS Senior Nanagement never learn that reduced Nursing staff numbers will always equal a reduction in patient safety, an increase in both patient and carers dissatisfaction, and the inevitable huge increase in litigation.

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  • I agree Roger. Currently clinical negligence law firms are inundated with claims. This will continue to rise over the next few years as changes are being made due to short staffed a&e departments in Stafford and Wales. Nurses are choosing to leave also because management can't cope when chief execs resign. The managers feel an enormous amount of pressure and can't switch off on their annual leave. I knew a manager who actually locked herself in the office to over hear staff finishing a late shift to see if they were talking about her. I've also witnessed a colleague being constructively placed on a capability protocol because she has a quiet personality and not in with the clique. Truth be known this nurses' was going through legal proceedings due to her ex. I actually listened to management after she left and resigned and was appalled at how little respect managers have for their staff. Occupational health needs to conduct alcohol and drug testing on their staff as trusts would be enlightened on the staff who are left. I would like to stress that I'm not insinuating that all staff do this but some do and it's the only way they can get through their shift or placement. Please Mr Cameron . . . Bring back the nhs and workforce that we know and love!

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  • George Kuchanny

    Hi Roger - What I have just read in the article is:

    Health minister Anne Milton said: “There are 2,400 more clinical staff working in the NHS than there were two years ago in May 2010, including over 3,700 more doctors, and over 900 extra midwives.

    “In contrast, the number of admin staff has fallen by over 17,500, creating savings that will be reinvested into frontline patient care.

    From this I gather that the drop in numbers is not at the sharp end where patients are being looked after but at the back end where paperwork etc is done. This is the normal evolution of every line of endeavour that modernises, from aircraft manufacture, through healthcare, and onto coffee shop franchise. When the NHS gets a NATIONAL IT system that actually works and works well the number of support staff will in fact diminish further i.e. one secretary will easily do what up to three strugglkw with currently and moreover do it with less mind numbing effort at getting round the failings in the current systems.

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  • Hi George,
    Taken across the whole country perhaps these numbers are accurate who knows? Number crunching has become an accepted part of government media manipulation. But maybe a closer inspection of many ward rotas could show these figures to paint a less than satisfactory picture. We know ourselves that many Trusts continue to provide care, especially lates and nights in less accute areas with absolute basic minimum Nurse/patient ratios.
    But surely whatever area of care our patients find themselves in, they deserve to be looked after with the same level of dignity and attention and certainly of safety.

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  • Most of the numbers are meaningless as they don't really define what happened to these staff. Have they left nursing altogether or have they become social enterprises and are doing the same jobs but not on the NHS books? A tiny increase in the number of midwives when there is a major baby boom still means that there is a shortage. Anyone who watched the series on midwifery and watched the midwife running from one delivery room to another can see that there is a problem. When I was a practising midwife, one-to-one care was the norm in the delivery rooms. I was a little surprised that an experienced midwife tried to convince a fifth-time mother to go home. She then went on to give birth about four hours later. It just shows what pressure the midwives are working under.

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  • Florence

    My Manager describes me as an excellent staff nurse who has brought stability and and a wealth of experience to our area. I have nearly 20 years post- registration experience.Im really level headed.And those I work with see me as a source of support.I don't believe I do anything special. I just do my job the best I can.
    And Im really priviledged to work with an amazing team of staff who work incredibly hard and deliver excellent patient care. However I have still had a recent period of being off sick due to work related stress and panic attacks. Admittedly I have had to change the way I do things at home and at work as Im a complete perfectionist which places me under unrealistic pressure and puts pressure on those around me at home and at work. Ive had time to reflect and have actually began to change.Ive learned the hard way that Im not actually doing myself or the patients or my colleagues any favours in the long run by staying on late ( well sometimes you can't avoid it ) and jumping in to cover shifts.
    If I am feeling frazzled and vunerable. Then staff with less experience must be feeling the same or worse ???
    And I feel sorry for my line managers as the pressure they are under is incredible. My Ward manager and our Junior Sister have admitted to me that they find it impossible to switch off on their days off and AL.
    We have unfilled vacancies.And we have some Girls on Mat Leave.
    For a time we were paid overtime to fill shifts . This was ideal as the staff who were prepared to do this had extra incentive to cover the shifts and the patients were looked after by Nurses familar to them and the ward.
    My heart sinks most days when I go into work. I try to maintain a positive attitude and instill that in others. I try to propose solutions when we have problems.
    I rarely feel that I have been able to give the care that I want to give nowadays.
    Yeah it's not rocket science. When we don't have the staff to provide the care. The patients suffer. The staff suffer too.

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  • I understand Morag, I have just took early retirement because my job is making me ill, I never felt relaxed at work or at home. Decided its not worth it anymore and a lot of other staff nurses are doing the same, I would be interested to know the figures of staff taking early retirement. I used to stay behind, go without breaks etc just so I could finish my workload as I didn't sleep and would worry about my next shift. My mental health suffered and I feel it will be a while before I feel normal again. I had no solution to the problem whilst working I hope Morag that you manage to find one.

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  • tinkerbell

    morag cunningham | 24-Aug-2012 10:59 am

    Well done Morag. At least your realisation is going to help you because basically we can't change anyone else, only ourselves.

    It took me years to realise i was a shadow of my former self because i was just trying to do too much and could never switch off.

    I am so much better at it now, though it took me years, i always try to leave on time, manage my time, delegate and trust others can do a job just as well as i can and sometimes maybe better and that we all march to the beat of a different drum and get things done in our own way.

    I no longer try to be wonderwoman.

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