Changes to NHS 'have cut 20,000 nurses'

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The Independent Online
GOVERNMENT reforms of the NHS have produced an explosion in bureaucracy, cutting nurse numbers by almost 20,000 while boosting the numbers of managers and clerical staff by more than 40,000, a Labour MP claims.

Figures provided in written answers by the Department of Health show there were 19,260 fewer nurses and midwives working in the NHS in England in September last year than in 1989, just before the NHS reforms took effect - a cut of almost 5 per cent.

The number of senior managers, however, has jumped from 4,610 to 16,690 - a rise of 262 per cent, or more than 12,000 - while the number of administrative and clerical staff have risen by 28,150, a 15 per cent rise.

Alan Milburn, Labour MP for Darlington, said: 'This shows the administrative burden of running the NHS internal market with all its purchasers, providers and contracts. Instead of producing a leaner, fitter, health service, the internal market is sapping the NHS with a booming bureaucratic burden while the number of nurses, who actually look after patients, is being steadily cut.'

The figures show that in every NHS region the number of nurses and midwives have been cut while the numbers of both managers and administrative and clerical staff have risen.

Mr Milburn released the figures the day after John Redwood, the Welsh Secretary, protested that in Wales 1,500 more managers and administrators had been appointed in the past three years against only 20 doctors.

Yesterday, the Welsh Secretary spoke to Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, in an attempt to quash reports of a damaging split with her over the NHS reforms, saying he was 'unhappy' about some of the coverage his speech had been given. He had cleared it with her beforehand.

The figures for England, however, appeared only to underline Mr Redwood's concerns as Dr Brian Mawhinney, the Minister for Health, clashed with the health service trade union Unison as it produced a 'dossier of shame' on NHS cuts. Its document put together press cuttings which it argued showed a 'crisis in the NHS' with beds being shut, operations cancelled and hospitals offering two-tier treatment with preference for GP fundholders.

Mr Mawhinney said the NHS was treating more patients than ever before - an answer which Rodney Bickerstaffe, associate general secretary of the union said was 'just not good enough.'

Hospital managers are to be given a bigger say in the controversial merit award system for doctors. In future committees advising on who gets the lucrative awards will be chaired by laymen not doctors. The awards for excellence can alost double a consultant's salary.

(Photograph omitted)

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