Page last updated at 17:31 GMT, Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Hunt defends fall in number of nurses

The falling number of nurses working in the NHS in England is mitigated by an "increase in the nurse-to-bed ratio", Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has argued.

At his departmental question session in the Commons on 27 November 2012, Mr Hunt accepted that there had been a "2% decline in the number of nurses".

But he drew MPs' attention to "a 4% increase in the number of midwives" and "a 5% increase in the number of doctors, and more than 50% increase in the number of health visitors".

He challenged Labour to tell the House "how much worse would those numbers have been if we had the cut in NHS funding you wanted".

Bed numbers across the NHS have fallen in recent years, due to improvements in surgical procedures and an emphasis on health care in the community.

But shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "Last week official statistics revealed 7,134 nursing jobs have been lost under the coalition, almost 1,000 in the last month under your watch.

"The very next day the Care Quality Commission warned 16% of hospitals in England are not meeting the CQC standard for adequate staffing levels.

"Isn't this prima facie evidence the NHS and patients are not safe in his hands?" Mr Burnham asked of the secretary of state, calling on him to prevent further job losses.

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