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'Francis effect' stalls as nurse numbers begin to fall again


The rapid increase in registered nurses employed in the NHS has come to an end with numbers now falling for the first time this year.

Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows the number of full-time equivalent qualified nurses, midwives and health visitors reached its highest recorded level of 314,802 in March this year – 4,000 more than in May 2010.

But in April it fell for the first time this year by 660 nurses to 314,142. The latest data shows the numbers fell further in May and June to 313,752, a drop of 1,050.

June overall nurses

Since August 2013 there has been intense recruitment of registered nurses following the Francis Report into failures at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust and new rules on safe staffing by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Overall the “Francis effect” as it has been called has seen more than 8,700 nurses join the NHS since August.

In the acute sector, where the majority of nurses have been employed, numbers have begun level off.

In April the number of qualified nurses working in the acute setting rose by just 54 nurses to a record high of 175,204 nurses. Since August 6,155 nurses have joined the acute sector. The latest data up to June 2014 shows numbers in the acute setting dropped to 175,039.

June acute nurses

However the data does reveal declines in the number of nurses working across maternity services, mental health services and community services.

Howard Catton, head of policy at the Royal College of Nursing said: “We have always said the Francis effect is partial and it hasn’t been seen in all settings.

“At the moment it is incredibly difficult to recruit,” said Mr Catton.

“There are shortages and employers are going across Europe to find staff,” he said.

He added that the emphasis on safe staffing and publishing staff data would continue to drive recruitment.

“I think these factors will continue to drive a demand for nurses in the acute sector and you will still see recruitment and a rise in the numbers but that will become increasingly difficult.”


Readers' comments (13)

  • i am not surprised...we get treated like second class citizens by this govt...who want to come into nursing???

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  • Totally agree with the above post

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  • I'm working abroad at the moment. I have about 9 month left on my contract. I have considered going back into the NHS. My friends who still work in it say it hasn't improved any?

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  • I am not surprised due to burdening us with so many requirements! Shortness of staff is visible and the workload is increasing.

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  • Surprised?? more and more demands on time in the form of admin and paperwork is driving nurses away; more work but no more resources.... no brainer really.

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  • Did they expect to magic them out of a hat? The NHS has not invested in nursing, medical and allied professional education, preferring instead to plunder the assets of poor countries who have invested scarce resources. Did nobody recognise the ageing nursing population and a similar age profile of GPs in many areas. Ed Milliband and David Cameron are now trying to outdo each other with promises but they will need a lot more than a magic wand to conjure up all the health professionals that are needed!

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  • It's true. We don't have to invest too heavily in staff conditions and pay, because we can recruit them from countries with high unemployment. Now the EC recession is improving, which countries should we recruit from next??

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  • The strike action in 2 weeks time will lead to an increase in pay, so that might help recruitment. Shame the RCN not joining in - industrial action really does work; history shows us this.

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  • when staffing levels were dropped, the management were questioned about Health and safety issues, and the increasing work load would put pressure on all staff and mistakes would happen. It fell on deaf ears, and now in full circle we have all the problems that arose to the 'Francis' report. It is no wonder that nurses have left or leaving the profession.

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  • It's not just changes in overall numbers though.

    Many trusts are "down banding", for example doing away with Band 7 and Band 6 posts, i.e. experienced, skilled staff, and replacing them with Band 5 posts...

    Numbers stay comparable, but we have a loss of skills and experience and a consequent decline in standards of care (this is NOT to denigrate Band 5s, but there isn't a Band 5 nurse in existence who could do what I did as a 7).

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