Numbers of health visitors, school nurses and learning disability nurses in England have continued to fall over the past year, shows analysis of the latest NHS workforce statistics by Nursing Times.
While overall nurse numbers have increased the figures, published by NHS Digital, show efforts to boost nursing numbers have yet to make up for a general decline in the workforce, especially in mental health.
The monthly figures show that, as of July 2018, there were 282,661 full-time equivalent nurses and health visitors working in NHS hospitals and community services. This is an increase of 0.5% on the previous year – nearly 1,300 more full-time roles.
When it comes to actual numbers, the figures show there were 317,231 individual nurses and health visitors in place – up 0.6% on July 2017 – or 1,746 more bodies on the ground.
While the figures show nursing numbers have increased over the past eight years, there are just 2,720 more full-time equivalent nurses now than in July 2010, despite a dramatic upsurge in demand for services.
Meanwhile, a breakdown for different fields of nursing shows numbers have fallen in key areas including learning disability nursing.
As of July 2018, the data shows there were 3,199 full-time equivalent learning disability nurses working in hospitals and the community – down from 3,323 in July 2017 – 124 fewer nurses.
The latest drop continues a steady decline in numbers, with more than 2,000 fewer learning disability nurses working in the profession than there were eight years ago.
The figures also show health visitor numbers have declined over the past year from 8,449 in July 2017 to 7,852 in July 2018 – nearly 600 fewer health visitors.
This is nearly 2,500 staff down on a peak of more than 10,300 in October 2015.
While the community nursing workforce increased very slightly between 2017 and 2018 to 35,091 – numbers are down from a peak of nearly 42,000 in January 2010 – more than 6,850 fewer nurses.
School nurses – who are included in the community nursing stats – saw full-time numbers drop from 2,422 in July 2017 to 2,213 in July 2018 – nearly 210 fewer school nurses. Numbers of full-time school nurses have fallen steadily from more than 3,000 in 2010.