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Figures reveal small fall in number of NHS nurses in England

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Latest figures have revealed a further – though small – drop in the total number of nurses working for the NHS in England.

The number of whole time equivalent nurses and health visitors, excluding practice nurses, fell by 148 between 2018 and 2017, new figures from NHS Digital show.

“New workforce figures show nurse numbers have plummeted still further”

Donna Kinnair

The figures, published today in an NHS Digital report, showed the number of WTE nurses and health visitors, not including those working in primary care, fell to 285,745 from 285,893.

In contrast, the number of WTE midwives increased by 200, from 21,600 to 21,800, and the number of clinical support workers increased by 5,020 to 318,000 in 2018, from 313,000 in 2017.

In primary care, the figures show the number of nurses in general practices increased by 400 to 15,900 WTE in 2018 from 15,500 WTE in 2017.

The new figures confirm a further, though small, decrease in the number of nurses and health visitors working in the NHS in England.

As reported in February, at 30 September 2017, the number of WTE nurses and health visitors, excluding nurses in GP practices, stood at 284,000 – a decrease of 0.2% (435) since 2016.

Today’s figures show that, overall, the total number of WTE staff employed by the NHS increased by nearly 19,800 between March 2017 and March 2018.

A total of 1.2 million WTEs were employed across trusts, clinical commissioning groups, NHS support organisations, central bodies in England and general practice.

The NHS Digital report also shows that the NHS employed 10,200 WTE senior managers, up from 10,000 in 2017, as well as employing 22,400 WTE managers, an increase of 1,220 on 2017.

Meanwhile, the data also shows that the number of healthcare workers in the independent sector stood at 46,400 in March 2018.

The Royal College of Nursing highlighted that the new NHS workforce figures had arrived on the same day as fresh warnings on the possibility of a Brexit “no deal”.

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab today gave a speech on planning for what he described as a “no deal Brexit”, as the government published the first 25 in a series of “technical notices” in case of a failure to agree terms over the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

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Donna Kinnair

Issues covered by the notices include workplace rights, blood products, research, new drug regulation and the stockpiling of medicines.

Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN acting chief executive and general secretary, said: “On the same day the government raises the alarm about the no deal cliff-edge, new workforce figures show nurse numbers have plummeted still further.

“For as long as the UK fails to train enough health care professionals of its own, recruiting from Europe and the wider world must be as easy as possible,” said Dame Donna.

“Patients cannot be left high and dry without the medicines and the nurses they need,” she said. “If the government sleepwalks into ‘no-deal’ it must protect patient interests and guarantee safe and effective care in law.”

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