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Big shift in number of nurses in NHS

Almost 5,000 nurses have left the NHS since May 2010 while the number of doctors has risen by 3,700, official figures released on 21 August show.

The Guardian reports that trade unions and Labour have said the job losses are a direct result of cuts to frontline hospital services. It adds that the drop in nursing numbers is significant because it represents in part a shift from state employment to working for private companies and charities.

Ministers say that the shift is “inevitable” but the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) claims that government plans to shift care out of hospital and closer to patients' homes are being used as a cover for cuts to NHS budgets.

The RCN said: "Our members tell us every day about a health service which could easily buckle under the strain of delivering more care with fewer staff. Cutting staff is a short-sighted and ultimately futile way of attempting to save money, as patients can end up waiting longer and being more seriously ill by the time they are treated."