NHS counts cost of efficiency as job losses hit frontline nursing

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley
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more than 3,000 fewer nurses are working in the NHS as latest figures reveal the biggest fall in numbers of health service staff in a decade.

The overall NHS workforce fell by 19,799 in the year to September to 1,350,377, down by 1.4 per cent.

Managers saw the biggest cuts over the period, down by 8.9 per cent to 38,214 in England, as numbers of NHS support staff fell by 5.9 per cent.

The cuts, including a one per cent fall in nursing staff, come as the NHS carries out a £20bn efficiency programme.

GP and consultant numbers rose by 0.9 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively, and overall there are more than 240,000 more people working for the NHS than a decade ago.

Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said the loss of qualified nurses was “incredibly worrying”.

“Despite the rhetoric, 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.

“There is no doubt that the impact of these cuts, combined with the upheaval created by the Health and Social Care Bill, means that the NHS is becoming seriously destabilised.

“We know that savings need to be made, but cutting frontline staff and services that vulnerable patients rely on is just not the way to do it.”

Figures for Yorkshire show there were 123,833 whole-time equivalent (WTE) staff in the NHS in September 2011, 3,300 fewer than 12 months previously.

Overall only five more doctors were working, although there were 95 more consultants and 36 more GPs. Total nurse staffing had fallen by 522 and there were 1,379 fewer support posts to clinical staff.

There were 261 fewer NHS managers, a fall of eight per cent on the year before.

Overall there were 3,016 WTE managers employed in September in Yorkshire, up 132 or five per cent on 2001, during which time the NHS budget has doubled. The region now has 13,500 doctors, up 42 per cent on a decade ago, and 33,800 nursing staff, up 19 per cent on 2001.

Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employers, said: “Employers have an unenviable challenge ahead of them – to maintain and improve quality in a challenging financial climate with employment costs rising.

“They are doing their best to protect patient care but it gets tougher all the time.”

Shadow Public Health Minister Diane Abbott said: “I think people across the country will be really frightened by this attack on our NHS.

“It is nothing short of a disgrace that having made all these promises about the NHS, what we now see from this Government is thousands of clinical posts such as nurses being axed, maternity services being sidelined, and the NHS budget being cut in real terms.

“David Cameron and Andrew Lansley need to get out of the bunker and see for themselves the damage they are doing.

“What we will now see is a huge strain placed on the NHS – waste, waits, deficits and genuine service reform stifled.”

Health Minister Simon Burns said: “We welcome the latest figures that show there are more clinical staff working in the NHS than ever before, while the number of managers has fallen dramatically.

“Compared to May 2010, there are now over 4,000 more doctors and over 900 more midwives in the NHS.

“In contrast, the number of admin staff and managers has fallen by over 15,000, creating savings that will be reinvested into frontline patient care.”