Since the coalition government came into power in 2010 the NHS has been under unprecedented pressure to make efficiency savings of 20 billion pounds while protecting front-line services.
Update: The CQC has found that 17 NHS hospitals are among 26 health providers with unsafe staffing levels. The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, quoted in The Guardian, notes that this kind of staffing deficit is unacceptable because of the increases in the numbers of doctors and midwives. However he fails to mention the loss of thousands of nursing posts, and posts in the clinical support infrastructure which contribute to exactly the kinds of problems the CQC report highlights.
Recent figures on staffing levels compiled by the NHS Information Centre suggest that front-line services are not being protected in all clinical areas. On the whole between May 2010 and July 2012 the total NHS workforce decreased by 2%. Within this figure three areas of staffing showed some growth. The number of doctors rose by 7.5%, qualified midwives by 5%, and qualified scientific, therapeutic and technical staff by 2%.
- However, the number of qualified nurses, qualified health visitors, support to doctors and nursing staff and NHS infrastructure support all decreased.
- The largest decrease was seen in the NHS infrastructure support at 9%, followed by the decrease in support to doctors and nursing staff 2.5%.
- The number of qualified nurses decreased by 2%, as many as 6000 nursing posts.
In addition to these changes in staffing levels the Royal College of Nursing's Frontline First report (published 13.11.2012) claims to have identified a further 61,276 posts which are at risk. Given that recent losses have been both within frontline staff and unevenly distributed across those areas the concern is that many of the at-risk clinical posts will be situated within nursing.
Please note that figures have been rounded up or down. Consult the source material below for detailed figures.
The NHS Information Centre monthly statistical bulletins on staffing levels
The Office for National Statistics
Royal College of Nursing
The King's Fund Quarterly Report on NHS performance (September 2012 edition)
Hospital watchdog warns 17 have unsafe staffing levels (Guardian 13/01/2013)