The number of whole-time equivalent nurses and health visitors working for the NHS fell by more than 1,000 in six months during 2016, according to latest official workforce figures.
The figures, published in a report by NHS Digital, also reveal a fall in the number of full-time midwives, but a small increase in practice nurse numbers – though over a longer period.
The data relates to the six-month period between March and September 2016 – the latest for which such information is available. It shows there were 284,288 WTE nurses and health visitors in September, which represents a decrease of 1,099 (0.4%) since March.
For WTE midwives, there were 21,038 in September last year, a decrease of 426 (2.0%) since March 2016.
Though the figures show a slump in nurses, midwives and health visitors over the most recent period recorded, the picture is different is different when looked at over the longer term.
Over the whole 12 months between September 2015 and 2016 there was an increase of 2,814 for nurses and health visitors and 104 for midwives – a rise of around 1% in both cases.
In primary care, there are 15,827 WTE nurses in September 2016, an increase of 429 (2.8%) since September 2015. No data was published for the six-month break-down from March.
In total, as at 30 September 2016, there were 1,070,262 WTE staff of all types working for NHS hospital and community health services in England.
This compared to 1,060,874 in March 2016 and 1,047,104 in September 2015 and represents is an increase of 9,388 (0.9%) since March 2016 and 23,158 (2.2%) since September 2015.
The figure covers staff working in NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups, central bodies and support organisations.
Meanwhile, as at 30 September 2016, there were at least 11,404 WTE nurses and health visitors working in the independent sector.
However, NHS Digital noted that the information provided for the independent sector healthcare workforce did “not represent the entire workforce” employed across the whole private sector and did not just show staff providing NHS commissioned services.