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Number of nurses set to fall by almost 2000

Labour says Health Education England's workforce projections could ‘push hospitals over the edge’

Mark Gould

Monday, 20 April 2015

The number of NHS nurses in England is set to fall by almost 2,000 over the next four years according to Health Education England (HEE) projections, Labour has said. The figures come from HEE's Workforce Plan for England 2015-16, which predicts the NHS will have 1,966 fewer full-time nurses by 2019.

The reductions include 748 full-time-equivalent adult nursing posts, 131 in disability learning nursing and 1,552 in mental health nursing. Only paediatric nursing is set to increase - by 465 posts according to the figures.

At the same time, Labour said an analysis by the independent House of Commons Library of the latest NHS Workforce Census showed the number of nurses per million of the population had fallen from 5,324 in September 2009 to 5,172 in September 2014.

Accusing the Conservatives of having a "secret plan", shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said fewer nurses would push hospitals "over the edge".

However, a Conservative spokesman said: "The only threat to nursing numbers is the threat of an Ed Miliband-SNP government that refuses to give the NHS the money it has said it needs. Under the Conservatives the number of nurses has increased by 6,900 and even this report shows that the number in training continues to rise."

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: “We are deeply alarmed at the projections of provider organisations contained within Health Education England’s Workforce Plan that there will be nearly 2,000 fewer nurses employed over the next four years when we know that demand for nurses is at an all-time high. Even more shocking, is the suggestion that trusts are forecasting the need for lower nursing numbers due to issues of affordability.

“Our recently report, The Fragile Frontline, found that there are already fewer nurses than 2010, with over 3,300 nursing posts cut from the community nursing workforce, with mental health and learning disability nursing numbers also suffering decline. Our report also found that nurses are having to work harder and longer hours. The RCN has repeatedly highlighted the link between unsafe staffing numbers and risk to patient care. If the heath service were to reduce nursing numbers, this would directly undermine quality of care and increase risks to patient safety.

“We know that patient demand for our health service and will continue to increase; we have an ageing population living with one or more long-term health conditions and nurses play a critical role in providing care. We would urge the next government to urgently increase the supply of nurses, to provide hospitals, communities and all settings a nursing workforce with the right mix of skills and experience to meet the needs of patients and our health service.”

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