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Workforce stats suggest another drop in nurse numbers


The number of nurses working in the NHS has fallen again in June, according to the latest workforce statistics.

Data released by the NHS Information Centre shows there were 632 fewer full-time equivalent qualified nurses employed during the month of June, compared to May this year.

There has also been a dip in health visitor numbers, which are down by 89 FTEs from 8,190 in May to 8,101 in June. There were small monthly increases in the number of midwives and school nurses of 38 and nine, respectively.

The data shows that over the last 12 months the number of qualified nurses working in the sector has fallen by 1,860 full-time equivalent posts, a drop of 0.6%.

The annual picture is better for public health nursing and midwifery. Compared to June 2011, the number of midwives is up by 438, while the number of health visitors has increased by 298. There are also 22 more school nurses than the previous year.

The figures also appear to demonstrate the impact of the change in government. Since the coalition government came to power in April 2010 the total number of full-time equivalent qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff has fallen by 4,527.

Overall 8,457 fewer people are working in the NHS than there was a year ago, with the number of doctors, excluding locums, up 1,817, or 1.9%.

The number of senior managers in the NHS has dropped by 505 FTE posts, a fall of 4.5% while the number of less-senior managers has reduced by 928 FTE posts, or 3.6%.

Against the national backdrop of falling NHS nursing posts, Nursing Times this week identified a number of trusts that have been forced to announce plans to recruit more nurses in order to ensure the safety of patients is maintained.

Commenting on the information centre’s figures, Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter, said removing thousands of nurses over the past two years would “profoundly affect” patient care.

He said: “One nurse being taken off a ward or out of a community nursing team can make a huge difference to the time the rest of the team can spend with patients. A reduction on this scale, happening over a short period of time, is something that the NHS as a whole will struggle to adapt to.”

He added: “Rather than targeting the frontline, the NHS should organise itself to keep people well and out of hospital, and nurses have a crucial role in making this happen.”

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “There are more midwives in the NHS and this is good news. However there are still not enough because the number of births is far outstripping the increase in midwives.

“The RCM believes that 5000 more midwives are needed now to ensure women across England receive safe, high quality care.”

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham accused the Prime Minister of breaking his pledge to protect the frontline. He said: “The government has taken the NHS to the brink with its toxic mix of budget cuts and destabilising reorganisation.

“What greater sign could there be of a government with its priorities wrong than one which gives tax breaks to millionaires and P45s to nurses?”

However, the Department of Health said the workforce figures only covered those staff recorded on the Electronic Staff Record and did not cover nurses employed by the private sector, local authorities and other bodies such as social enterprises, which are increasingly running services in the community sector.

Health minister Lord Howe said: “There are always fluctuations in the workforce, and the reality is there are almost a thousand more clinical staff working in the NHS than there were in May 2010, including nearly 3,500 more doctors, and over 900 extra midwives.

“And the number of staff delivering NHS services in the community is estimated to have risen by 25,000 in recent years, but not all these people are taken into account by the central official statistics. In contrast, the number of admin staff has fallen by over 18,000.”


Readers' comments (9)

  • More evidence of our "professions" leaders failing miserably to protect the interests of the nursing profession and well being of patients.

    These nursing workforce cuts are undertaken with the full support of Senior Nurse Managers.

    It is us, the plebs of the profession. who suffer and the patients who receive less care than is needed.

    Our "wonderful" Nurse Managers will not be satisfied until they have succeeded in replacing 90 % of the (expensive?) RN workforce with "cheap" care assistants. By supporting a reduction of University places for student nurses they have ensured a bleak future for nursing!

    If you can get out now ! ------

    Take your skills, knowledge and experience to Australia, New Zealand or Canada. You will be welcomed, valued and well remunerated!

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  • Well said Jenny. Is anyone really surprised at this?

    First of all there is a significant number of experienced nurses (and I count myself in this number) who are leaving or have already left nursing entirely out of choice, fed up with the working conditions, crap pay and the ridiculous decimation of our profession, amongst other things.

    Second of all there are ward closures and post cuts left right and centre, with many nurses who still (strangely) want to work in the profession unable to find work elsewhere.

    Thirdly, there is a large number of nurses on the cusp of retirement (and I bet bloody well looking forward to it too!) and the wards will not replace every post.

    Finally, there are cuts to student places too, with a massive drop in new nurses coming into the system (and no guarantee they will be able to get a job).

    So who exactly do they expect to be left to look after and treat patients in a few years? The UNTRAINED and UNQUALIFIED HCAs? God help us all when it is our turn in the beds.

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  • good old tories give their chums tax breaks and P45's to the nurses...well done cameron you must be so proud of what you have done to the nhs in such a short space of time

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  • michael stone

    'The number of senior managers in the NHS has dropped by 505 FTE posts, a fall of 4.5% while the number of less-senior managers has reduced by 928 FTE posts, or 3.6%.'

    'The data shows that over the last 12 months the number of qualified nurses working in the sector has fallen by 1,860 full-time equivalent posts, a drop of 0.6%.'

    IF you believe the figures, they seem to prove that managerial posts have been reduced faster than nursing positions.

    However, as some of us think this goverment essentially wants a much smaller NHS because it wants to spend less money on the NHS, it probably wants to reduce all NHS jobs, full stop.

    The politicians need to be nailed on the 'We can spend less but still have an NHS that is just as good' claim ! Flogging (overworking) almost everyone who works in the NHS to death, won't be successful !

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  • Mike Stone. There were too many management posts in the first place; not too many nursing posts! That is why a lot of management posts have gone.

    Don't get ill in the future folks; there'll be no one qualified to care for you. Scary prospect.

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  • tinkerbell

    and got good redundancy packages, more than nurses got which was redeployment to places to far too travel then sacked.

    It isn't just badger culling season.

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  • tinkerbell

    got all my to and too's mixed up as in a right two and two, but hey who cares anymore. Thanks LibDems for stepping in 'too late too'.

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  • Mike - excellent comments - I would add:

    define 'NHS' delivered services i.e. many Primary care services have been commissoned out to Private Enterprise (Virgin has just taken over School nurse services for example) or Social Enterprise schemes, Hinchinbrooke Hospital is run by a Private Company but the patient are still NHS. Some NHS patients have their NHS treatment paid for by the NHS in Private hospitals and are looked after by non NHS healthcare staff etc

    So, question is: when is an NHS statistic not an NHS statistic?

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  • The way nurses are treated is a disgrace and it getting much worse.We are informed that there is no money to employ us or give us a reasonable banding for the reaponsibilty we hold, while other professionals such as Psychologists have an expectation, and often get a band 8 with very limited experience behind them. Negativity towards the nursing profession by other multidiciplinary team members is also becoming more apparent, and nursing positions are left out of the higher grade posts. Experienced nurses are not even considered for senior posts in the NMC, and yet they do not appear to be doing a very good job without us do they..

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