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RCN criticises 'small growth' in nursing workforce

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The registered nursing and midwifery workforce has seen a much smaller percentage increase over the last year than either doctors or health service managers, latest figures reveal.

The Royal College of Nursing responded to the figures by calling on the government to commit to train and retain more nurses.

“Such a meagre increase in vital nursing staff is hard to understand against a backdrop of increasing patient demand”

Donna Kinnair

Data published yesterday showed that, on 30 September 2015, the number of nurses and health visitors in the NHS in England stood at 281,000 whole-time equivalents.

This represents an increase of just 0.9% (2,500) on 2014 and a meagre 1.1% (3,000) increase since 2009.

Meanwhile, there were 20,900 WTE midwives, representing an increase of just 0.5% (96) since 2014 but a more positive increase of 10.4% (1,980) since 2009.

By comparison, there were 299,000 WTE clinical support staff, an increase of 3.3% (9,550) on 2014 and of 5.4% (15,500) since 2009.

However, the percentage increases were largest over the last year for senior doctors and managers, the Health and Social Care Information Centre’s report revealed.

Consultant numbers increased by 3.9% (1,610) from 2014 and there was a massive increase of 22.5% (7,900) since 2009. The total in September stood at 42,900 WTEs.

Likewise, the number of managers increased by 6.5% (1,240) over the 12 months and the number of senior managers by 5.3% (466).

The number of managers in September stood at 20,300, though there was a decrease of 21% (5,400) since 2009, and the number of senior managers stood at 9,260, a decrease of 22.1% (2,630) on 2009.

The figures in the centre’s workforce statistics report cover all staff working in NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups, central bodies and support to NHS.

Overall, the report said the number of WTE staff working in the NHS in England had increased by 1.8% (18,300) since 2014.

In total, 1.05 million WTE staff were working for NHS hospital and community health services in England at 30 September 2015, compared to 1.03 million in 2014.

Donna Kinnair

Dame Donna Kinnair

Donna Kinnair

But the RCN highlighted that the number of nurses and health visitors represented one of the smallest proportional increases of any staff group in the NHS since 2009.

Dame Donna Kinnair, RCN director of nursing, policy and practice, said: “Such a meagre increase in vital nursing staff is hard to understand against a backdrop of increasing patient demand and services under growing pressure.

“The NHS cannot cope with increasing demands without more nurses and the small increase so far is not enough,” she said. “The increase in numbers of other NHS staff is to be welcomed, but without a similar increase in nursing staff the strain on services will continue.”

She added: “The government must commit to train and retain more nurses to ensure patients receive the care they deserve.”

Summary of the key statistics:

  • The number of professionally qualified clinical staff stood at 553,000 WTE, an increase of 1.2% (6,520) since 2014 and an increase of 4.5% (24,000) on 2009
  • There were 51,300 WTE hospital doctors in training, a decrease of 0.5% (256) on 2014 and an increase of 4.2% (2,060) on 2009
  • Consultant numbers stood at 42,900 FTE, an increase of 3.9% (1,610) on 2014 and an increase of 22.5% (7,900) since 2009
  • Nurses and health visitors stood at 281,000 FTE an increase of 0.9% (2,500) on 2014 and 1.1% (3,000) increase on 2009
  • There were 20,900 WTE midwives, an increase of 0.5% (96) since 2014, and an increase of 10.4% (1,980) since 2009
  • There were 299,000 WTE staff providing support to clinical staff an increase of 3.3% (9,550) on 2014 and an increase of 5.4% (15,500) on 2009
  • NHS infrastructure support staff stood at 158,000 WTE, an increase of 2.5% (3,820) on 2014 and a 14.7% (27,300) decrease on 2009, of which managers stood at 20,300, an increase of 6.5% (1,240) on 2014 and a decrease of 21.0% (5,400) on 2009, while senior managers stood at 9,260, an increase of 5.3% (466) on 2014 and a decrease of 22.1% (2,630) on 2009
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