Biggest fall in NHS staff for a decade

NHS staff numbers in England have shown their biggest fall in 10 years, with nursing posts among those cut, official figures show.

The workforce fell by 19,799 by the end of September 2011 to 1,350,377, a drop of 1.4 per cent on a year earlier.

It is the biggest fall in staff figures for a decade and comes as health chiefs are confronted with making £20bn in efficiency savings by 2014-15. The biggest drop was in management, with their numbers falling by 8.9 per cent to 38,214, according to the report by the NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care.

NHS support staff fell to 219,624, a fall of 5.9 per cent since 2010, while the number of hospital and community health service nurses fell by 3,411, or 1 per cent.

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.

Critics said the figures provided proof that, despite reassurances, frontline NHS jobs were not being protected. Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the loss of qualified nurses was "incredibly worrying".