Friday, April 27, 2007

Mixed news over NHS staff numbers

The debate over NHS staffing continues after independent data showed there had been a cut in posts, but more doctors and nurses were working full-time.

The NHS Information Centre has estimated that 17,000 posts have been lost in the year
up to September 2006.

But among nurses and doctors there was actually an increase in capacity as more staff were working full-time.

Ministers said it showed the NHS was strengthening frontline staffing, but critics said cuts were hitting hard.

Jobs cuts has been at the centre of controversy in recent months, with unions and opposition parties estimating thousands of posts have gone as the health service struggles with deficits.

The latest figures, which the NHS Information Centre said was a "best estimate", has given
weight to both sides of the argument.

Only last month, the Royal College of Nursing claimed 22,000 posts have gone in the last 18 months, reasonably in-line with the 17,000 figure over 12 months.

But shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Staff across the NHS feel badly let down and threatened by the impact of lost jobs and financial deficits."

Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "Government spinning and denial cannot conceal the fact that frontline medical jobs have been lost as a direct result of this government's appalling mismanagement of the NHS."

And Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said the figures confirmed fears deficits were having a damaging impact.

"When you dig below the surface... the headline increase in nurse numbers is made up of double counting existing nurses working extra shifts."