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NHS has lost more than 5,000 nurses in three years


The NHS in England has lost more than 5,000 nurses in just three years, official figures show.

Data for May this year reveals there were 348,311 qualified staff working in nursing, midwifery and health visiting, down 5,601 on the 353,912 in May 2010.

Numbers of midwives, health visitors and school nurses have risen over the period meaning the drop is attributable to lost nursing posts.

The figure for the total number of staff working in these fields has dropped every year since 2010.

In total, there were 307,634 nurses, midwives and health visitors working the equivalent of full time in May, down on the 310,793 in May 2010.

The number of doctors working in the NHS has risen slightly over the period, as has the number of ambulance staff.

The data was released yesterday by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The only way safe and compassionate patient care can be delivered is if we have enough nursing staff on the ground, with the right skills and training.

“The ever-increasing pressure nurses are under, with more patients to look after and more complex health conditions to cater for, is untenable and dangerous,” he said. “This is why the reports of Robert Francis, Sir Bruce Keogh, and recently Professor Don Berwick have all called for NHS trusts to guarantee safe staffing levels.

“Nurses in the UK want to be able to provide first-class care every hour of every day, however they can only do this if we invest properly in them,” he added.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: “Report after report has warned David Cameron of the central importance of nurse numbers in providing safe care.

“But these cuts to the NHS frontline show he is ignoring these warnings and allowing hospitals across England to operate without safe staffing levels.

“It is simply unacceptable that, six months on, the government has failed to take any action on the minimum staffing recommendation in the Francis Report.

“The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has confirmed it has not been asked to even examine how to achieve it.

“This complacency can’t carry on,” Mr Burnham said. “The NHS simply cannot absorb nursing cuts on this scale.”

As reported earlier this week, NICE has told Nursing Times it has yet to be formally asked by the Department of Health to take forward a Francis report recommendation to develop evidence-based tools for establishing minimum safe staffing levels.

This is despite the DH saying in March that it would work with NICE on the idea.

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Readers' comments (27)

  • Hope you'll print the DH/NHS England spin on this.

    Wonder who they'll blame

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  • Politicians care about votes, not patients, or nurses. Tory ideology demands that we can cut our way out of debt, rather than spend or tax contribute our way out of debt. The Mid Staffs debacle was tailor made for them to pile ridiculous pressure onto nurses, thus reducing public concern at losing nurses because of the real reason - Tory cuts. The current government has briefed against nurses and the NHS since it came to power, and continues to do so. And it is ably assisted by the Fourth Estate, and the failures of people who should never have been allowed near patients in the first place. They will simply not learn that the NHS CANNOT be run like a business. If they want to see improvement, then they have to fund proper levels of nursing and allow nurses to nurse, instead of filling in bits of bureaucratic paper and counting cotton buds.

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  • well done the tories and lib dems

    your on must be so proud

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  • ah, at last someone who supports the present government. I was beginning to think NT readers are all labour and trade unionists.

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  • Anonymous | 22-Aug-2013 3:31 pm

    I am neither a Labour supporter nor a trade unionist. But I am vehemently opposed to the policies and ideology of this government. You should not assume that the people who write here have the narrow political views that you appear to have. Like your Tory pals, you are clueless.

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  • Anonymous | 22-Aug-2013 6:22 pm

    I didn't express my political views so you can pass no judgement on them. I was just mking a statement based on the comment you made. who are my tory pals? and you cannot make personal remarks like telling somebody they are clueless when you know nothing about them.

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  • Okay lets calm down we are all on the same side aren't we? Basically nurses are not valued as a profession by the government and seen as an easy group to pick on, with pay freezes, parking costs, increased fees etc. They spend so much money looking at how to save money at the cost of nurses its a joke!

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  • very very soon there will not be an NHS left thanks to this govt

    politics should not play a part in peoples health, but under this lot it's about profit for their rich chums at the expense of the elderly and ill people of this low

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  • Anonymous | 23-Aug-2013 9:53 am

    a national health service or a more regional one across the country to replace it will not cease to exist. I doubt you can leave a country without any sort of healthcare available to all residents of the country.

    I agree that politics or even non-clinical management should play only a minimal part in peoples' health and only in the funding and addministrative side of health services, which is outside the role of health care professionals, and not in clinical decision making. However, 'this lot' as you refer to them are striving to find ways to ensure funding for the future of the NHS to make sure that services to the nation are sustainable and there is enough to fund care to reach everybody. Sadly this cannot be done iwthout profit and funding and the changes cannot be made overnight.

    to criticise groups of individuals for doing their job is every bit as low as blaming all of the short comings in current services on nurses and nursing (especially when demands on them have increased and at the same time numbers have been cut (local managerial decisions and not actioned by the governement who do not play any part in hospital staffing) ... it is not liked!

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  • re-above

    yep because we all know privatisation works...just look at the railways, utility companies and thier greedy profit margins

    ever since this lot came to power with no mandate to re-organise the nhs, the nhs has had job cuts on a massive scale, A&E in crisis, hospital closures, A&E closures etc etc

    yep they are definitely ensuring the future of the NHS!

    J Hunt health secretary, did he not write a book calling the NHS a sixty year mistake and wanted the NHS banned from the opening ceremony of last years olympic games...yep what a role model!!

    Already somewhere in the country the nhs is bailing out a private company as they have made a hash of the service...sign of things to come

    " I will cut the nhs not the deficit" should of been david cameron's spin!

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