Latest workforce figures have revealed a further decrease in the number of nurses and health visitors working in the NHS in England.
At 30 September 2017, the number of whole-time equivalent nurses and health visitors, excluding nurses in GP practices, stood at 284,000 – a decrease of 0.2% (435) since 2016.
“These official figures show the number of nurses continuing to slide”
There were 15,800 WTE nurses in GP practices, a decrease of 0.2 per cent (27) on 2016, according to figures in a new NHS Digital report on healthcare workforce statistics, published today. In contrast, there were 21,200 WTE midwives, an increase of 0.8% (168) since 2016.
Overall, the number of WTE staff working in the NHS in England has increased by 1.5% (17,900) since 2016. At 30 September 2017, there were 1.21 million WTE staff working for the NHS in England, compared to 1.20 million at the same point in 2016.
While nurse numbers had continued to fall, there were increases in both the numbers of doctors and managers, the figures revealed.
For example, there were 52,800 WTE hospital doctors in training, an increase of 2.4% (1,250) since 2016, and consultant numbers stood at 45,800 WTE, an increase of 3.4% (1,490) since 2016.
In addition, the number of managers stood at 21,700 WTE, an increase of 3.3% (687) on 2016, and the number of senior managers stood at 10,300 WTE, an increase of 7.0% (676) on 2016.
Figures on some of the independent sector healthcare workforce providing NHS-commissioned services are also included in today’s report.
The total number of WTE staff working in the independent healthcare workforce at 30 September 2017 was 46,900, based on those organisations that provided data to NHS Digital.
Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “These official figures show the number of nurses continuing to slide.
“It feels to frontline nursing staff that, in a cash-strapped NHS, they have become an easy target for cuts,” she said. “It will be galling when they see senior management burgeoning too – now officially the fastest growing part of the NHS.
“Against a backdrop of modest boosts to medical professions – in a bid to keep pace with soaring demand – nursing is shrinking,” said Ms Davies. “All the while, nurses are responsible for the vast majority of hands-on patient care – standards rise and fall with the number of nurses.”
She also highlighted recent figures showing there were around 40,000 nurse vacancies in England and warned that, as a result, elements of patient care would “inevitably continue to go undone”.
She reiterated the RCN’s calls for the government to reinstate bursaries for student nurses, boost nurse pay and introduce safe staffing legislation.