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Census confirms NHS nursing workforce has shrunk

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The number of registered nurses working in the NHS fell by 3,000 last year, according to latest workforce figures.

The Royal College of Nursing described the loss of qualified nurses as “incredibly worrying”.

The annual NHS workforce census, published today, showed the number of hospital and community health service qualified nurses stood at 348,693 on 30 September 2011, a reduction of 3,411 (1%) since 2010.

Meanwhile, clinical support staff numbers fell to 347,064, a decrease of 9,346 (2.6%) since 2010.

The nursing figures come against a background of overall NHS staffing cuts but a small increase in clinical staff.

There were 1,350,377 people working for the NHS in England on 30 September 2011 – a decrease of 1.4% on the same time in 2010.

However, there was an increase in most clinical staff categories. Provisional figures reported by Nursing Times in November showed the number of doctors had continued to rise while nursing numbers had fallen.

The new census figures confirm this trend. Consultants numbers rose to 39,088, an increase of 1,336 (3.5%) since 2010 and GP numbers saw an increase of 371 since 2010 (0.9%) to stand at 39,780.

NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said in a statement: “The fall in the NHS staff numbers is primarily in non-clinical, particularly managerial, posts.

“Most categories of professionally qualified clinical staff saw increases in their numbers – although nurses saw a small decline but numbers are still up on 10 years ago.”

But Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “These figures are yet further evidence of the rising scale of cuts to NHS jobs and services.

“We know that frontline jobs are not being protected and NHS trusts must stop making cuts in a quick fix attempt to save money. Put bluntly, the idea that cutting hundreds of jobs from a hospital will not affect the care of patients is ludicrous.”

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Readers' comments (5)

  • tinkerbell

    But Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “These figures are yet further evidence of the rising scale of cuts to NHS jobs and services.

    “We know that frontline jobs are not being protected and NHS trusts must stop making cuts in a quick fix attempt to save money. Put bluntly, the idea that cutting hundreds of jobs from a hospital will not affect the care of patients is ludicrous

    Well said Peter. And yet they continue. Does this government care, a resounding NO.

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  • it will get worse

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  • Alas, times have changed over the past 4 decades...
    once upon a time, student nurse learners used to 'work' on the wards - a 'spare pair of hands' they called them -, where they would discover what a 'patient' was and learn how to manage his/her basic needs, for their shift.
    Then some 'twat' or another, had a 'brainwave' and decided to take the students off the wards and stick them in a university, where, they would learn all about 'nursing care', until they qualified.

    By the time they got on their first ward, they met a bunch of 'ill buggers', all wanting assistance for something like 'treatment whatever that meant, or whatever.
    Well, that wasn't their job, that was the responsibilty of an 'untrained nursing assistant now, wasn't it. You can't expect a highly qualified nurse , with a degree in nurse management skills, to do such 'menial' tasks as , feeding, toileting, caring for a patient, who are not capable of do it for themselves. Crikey what will they expect next? To get better.???
    Not on their watch they wont.
    The NHS will continue to be broken down by the Tory Party, whose member are so wealthy, they can afford to pay for 'private health care.

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  • Juggling Dog

    Anonymous | 23-Mar-2012 2:08 pm

    That could be right - but isn't it part of the Too Posh to Wash debate, so aren't you asking for trouble by posting it inside a numbers piece ?

    I think to an extent the separation between nurses and HCAs is unhelpful - unless it is very clear what HCAs can competently do, and I don't think that is clear, this Numbers Debate isn't being clearly argued. Because less nurses but more HCAs gets introduced, and it gets horribly tricky to even define how many of whom are needed, to properly look after patients.

    But long-serving nurses do ALL seem to agree about one thing - the job is very different from 30 or 40 years ago.

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 23-Mar-2012 2:08 pm

    I agree with you. The practice - theory gap has gone too far.

    I have nothing against anyone with further qualifications but you are no good to me on a ward with patients if you are too posh or too highly educated to wash the people and everyone is lying in their own urine and faeces.

    You can have all the knowledge in the world but if you can't put it into practice what's the bloody point?

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