Nurse numbers rise in England but NHS is ‘a long way from being safely staffed’ – RCN

College responds to statistics showing nurse and health visitor numbers increased by 10,999 in past year

College responds to statistics showing nurse and health visitor numbers increased by 10,999 in past year

Picture: Daniel Mitchell

Nurse and health visitor numbers in the NHS in England have risen by nearly 11,000 in the past year, according to statistics from NHS Digital.

Figures show that in February there were 309,631 nurses and health visitors working in NHS hospitals and community health services compared with 298,632 in February 2020 – an increase of 10,999.

However, the nurse vacancy rate in England’s NHS remains high, with the latest data from December 2020 showing there were 36,214 vacancies.

Government vows to continue to support workforce growth

Helen Whately

Minister of state for social care Helen Whately said the recent increase in nurse numbers showed the government was on track to deliver on its election commitment.

‘As we build back better we will continue to support the workforce to grow, and deliver 50,000 more nurses by the end of this parliament,’ she said.

RCN urges government to reward nurses – or risk losing them

RCN interim director of nursing, policy and public affairs Jude Diggins said: ‘NHS and care services in England are a long way from being safely staffed. There are still tens of thousands of unfilled nursing jobs.

‘The workforce has grown during the pandemic and politicians must consider the level of reward and recognition that would keep them in post for years to come.’

Some nursing specialties see a fall in staff numbers

The nursing workforce growth has been driven by a rise in the number of adult and general nurses as well as children’s, mental health and community nurses.

But there were decreases in other areas of nursing compared with last year:

  • Learning disability nurse numbers dropped by 38 to 3,214
  • Health visitor numbers fell by 233 to 6,591
  • The number of nurses working in general practice decreased by 89 to 16,533

In July 2020, the NHS People Plan for 2020-21, part of a five-year strategy to address recruitment and retention, set out goals to improve nurse numbers. These included the introduction of flexible working as well as urging employers to focus on staff health and well-being.

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