The number of nurses, midwives and health visiting staff in the NHS has fallen by more than 6,500 since the coalition government took power, the Royal College of Nursing has said following the release of new workforce figures.
Since May 2010 the number of qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff employed by the NHS has fallen by 6,588, according to data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
Between June and July this year 808 posts were lost, the centre’s workforce statistics for England show.
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We hear again and again of the government’s promises that savings won’t mean cuts to frontline jobs. Yet today’s figures of 6,000 job losses prove that this is just not the case.
“We are told repeatedly about cuts sweeping across the NHS, placing nurses under growing strain to deliver more with fewer staff. This process of cuts cannot continue.
“With patients having to wait longer and longer to be seen by a smaller number of demoralised nurses, care will suffer.”
But health minister Dr Dan Poulter questioned the statistics. He said: “There are always fluctuations in the workforce, and the reality is that there are more clinical staff working in the NHS now than there were in May 2010 - including more than 7,000 more doctors, and more than 900 extra midwives.
“The number of NHS staff working in the community has risen considerably in recent years, but not all these people are taken into account by central statistics.
“In contrast, the number of administration staff has fallen by over 18,000 and the number of managers by over 4,500. This is creating savings that will help protect the NHS for future generations,” he added.
Labour shadow health minister Jamie Reed said: “What greater sign could there be of a government that has got its priorities wrong - giving tax breaks to millionaires and P45s to nurses?
“David Cameron needs to stand up for the right people - patients and staff deserve to be put first. He must stop this assault on the NHS frontline.”