The number of full-time equivalent nurses in the NHS in England has risen by 13,718 compared to last year, although health visitor numbers continue to fall, official figures show.
NHS workforce statistics published yesterday (22 October) show that the number of nurses rose from 281,474 to 295,193 between July 2019 and July 2020, excluding health visitors.
However, health visitor numbers dropped from 6,931 to 6,644 in the same period. This continues a significant downward trend from a high of 10,279 in November 2015.
Concern from nursing groups also remains over the high number of overall vacancies for nurses.
RCN chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair insisted the recent increase ‘isn’t a sign that Government strategy is working’, adding that it is ‘dwarfed’ by gaps in social care and the NHS.
She continued: ‘[The Government] needs to accept workforce planning to this point has been unfit to meet the growing health and care needs of the population.’
The figures from July also include 598 former healthcare professionals who returned to the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dame Donna added: ‘Government ministers can’t forever rely on the goodwill of recently retired nurses who came back into service, or the goodwill of the students who disrupted their studies to help the efforts against this pandemic.’
Latest NHS vacancy figures show there are 37,821 full-time equivalent unfilled nursing posts, as of June 2020.
Meanwhile, the number of nurses in social care has dropped to 36,000 – 7% fewer than in 2019 and 30% fewer than in 2012 – according to a Skills for Care report published this week.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘It is fantastic that there are over 13,700 more nurses and 7,800 more doctors working in our NHS, and by the end of this Parliament we will deliver on our commitment of 50,000 more nurses.’
The Government promised in the build-up to last year’s election that it would deliver 50,000 more nurses in the NHS in England by 2024/24.
But last month, the RCN warned that ‘more Government action’ is needed to retain the existing workforce, despite a 23% rise in student nurse acceptance rates.