UK & World News
NHS 'Loses 6,000 Nurses' In Two Years
The NHS has lost more than 6,000 qualified nurses since the coalition Government came to power, according to new figures.
The latest workforce statistics released by the NHS Information Centre showed that between May 2010 and July this year, hospitals and community health services lost 6,147 nurses.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said its own figures show that another 32,700 jobs are "at risk" - despite rising demands on the NHS from an ageing population.
It warned the health service was "sleepwalking into a crisis".
Dr Peter Carter, the RCN's general secretary, said: "On a daily basis, nurses are telling us that they do not have enough staff to deliver good quality care.
"Demand for services is continuing to rise. However, staffing levels are being slashed."
The RCN has analysed the figures from the NHS Information Centre as part of its Frontline First staffing campaign.
However, the union admitted problems with the statistics. Nurses working for services that are taken over by private providers will show up as an NHS job loss, even though they are still treating NHS patients.
The official figures also show the NHS has employed 7,286 more doctors since May 2010, although Dr Carter warned that nurses are just as important to the NHS.
"We believe all clinical professions should be afforded equal protection," he said.
"Currently the nursing supply is being choked and given the importance of nursing to provide high quality care, this has worrying implications for patients."
Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said: "NHS performance is strong. Waiting times and infection rates are at record low levels. To say that the NHS is in crisis is scaremongering and doesn't reflect reality."
He added that patients are spending less time in hospital and that the NHS workforce "is changing to reflect this".