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Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 11:18 GMT
Nurse recruitment target met
The NHS is short of nurses
Ministers say they have met their target of recruiting an extra 20,000 nurses and midwives to the NHS.

The NHS Plan said that between September 1999 and September 2004 there would be 20,000 more nurses working in the NHS.

Latest figures show that between September 1999 and September 2001 there was a net increase of 20,740.

The total headcount of qualified nurses working in the NHS rose by 4.3% last year - the biggest increase of qualified nurses on record - by 14,400 to 350,400.

The headcount figures come from the annual census of employment in the NHS.

The census also shows that other staffing numbers have also increased in other areas in the 12 months to September 2001:

  • Hospital consultants up 5.7% to 25,690
  • Trainee hospital consultants up 3.8% to 13,220
  • People training to be GPs up 13.5% to 1,883
  • Qualified allied health professionals up 4% to 51,320
  • Overall NHS workforce up by 4.3% to 1,166,000
The number of GPs has also risen, but by just 1.4% to 30,685. The NHS Plan pledges to increase numbers by 2,000 by 2004.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn said: "The NHS is now moving in the right direction.

"The investment and reforms that are going in are starting to pay dividends.

"The corner has been turned on nurse recruitment."

Mr Milburn said efforts would continue to recruit more nurses to the NHS. However, the emphasis would now switch to retaining existing staff.

"Our objective then must be to improve the working lives of nurses to make nursing an even more attractive career."

Nurses' welcome

Dr Beverly Malone, general secretary, Royal College of Nursing said it was very positive that the NHS Plan targets for nurses recruitment had been met.

The challenge now must be to retain existing nurses

Dr Beverly Malone
But she said: "Shortages still exist. The challenge now must be to retain existing nurses and to sustain this growth in the context of an ageing nursing workforce.

"In the long term we have to reduce our current dependence on internationally recruited nurses.

"Nurse numbers are only part of the story. Nurses are working harder than ever to maintain high quality patient care in difficult circumstances.

"In order to retain our nurses we must value them through improvements to both working lives, career development and in their pay."

Doctors' response

Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of British Medical Association's council said the figures revealed a mixed picture on doctor numbers.

He acknowledged that the recruitment of consultants had improved substantially, but warned that much more needed to be done if the government was to meet its target of 7,500 consultants by 2004.

GPs presented the government with an even bigger challenge, he said.

"The rate of expansion is woefully inadequate. It underlines the need to agree a new contract for GPs so that we stop overburdening the existing workforce and help them deliver improved patient care."

See also:

12 Dec 01 | Health
Nurse recruitment 'on target'
27 Jul 00 | NHS reform
Blair unveils NHS blueprint
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