Headlines: December 13th, 2001

The Government has seized on new statistics about nurse numbers as evidence that the NHS Plan is being delivered according to time and that the tide is turning on nurse shortages.The figures show that the number of nurses and midwives working in the NHS has increased by more than 10,000 in the last year alone.

The NHS Plan set out a targeted increase in NHS nurses of 20,000 between 1999 and 2004. Along with previous gains, the new figures indicate there has already been an increase of 16,000 during this time period.

A snapshot survey of NHS beds carried out in November shows the number of general and acute beds in NHS hospitals rose by 1,225 compared to the same point in the previous year.

Both increase figures come in Making Progress, a report on capacity to handle emergency pressures. See www.doh.gov.uk/capacityplanning

Alan Milburn has also announced plans to do even more to recruitment and retain nurses. There is to be year-round advertising, better childcare facilities offered, improvements to working conditions and nurses offered a greater say in how services they are involved with are run.

NHS Scotland has gone even further. People training to nurse in Scotland have been offered a guarantee of a year’s employment. There are also plans for a national database of nurses to aid the filling of vacancies. These promises will be steered to delivery by a new ‘Facing the Future’ Group of politicians and nurse representatives.