Claim about social care spending and nurse numbers needs more context

Published: 1st Nov 2019

In brief

Claim

Over 200,000 nurses have resigned since 2010.

Conclusion

Incorrect. This figure covers all nurses and health visitors who have left the NHS in England from 2010 to 2018, including those with an unknown reason for leaving as well as those who have retired or died in service. Overall the number of nurses working in the NHS is higher than in 2010.

 

Social care has been slashed by £7.7 billion since 2010.

 

This figure refers to the savings councils in England report having had to make since 2010 on adult social care spending—through things like efficiency measures, renegotiating contracts, innovation, reducing and stopping services. It’s not the amount their budgets were reduced by, which have fallen by much less.

Claim 1 of 2

“Since 2010, social care has been slashed by £7.7 billion. Over 200,000 nurses have resigned.”

David Lammy MP, 27 October 2019

This week Labour MP David Lammy claimed that social care has been slashed by £7.7 billion and that 200,000 nurses have resigned since 2010.

The £7.7 billion figure needs more context. It’s the amount councils in England say they have had to save on adult social care spending since 2010. That’s money they had in previous budgets but had to make savings on, it’s not necessarily how much their budget has been reduced by. Overall spending on adult social care has fallen by £0.4 billion in real terms (taking into account inflation) since 2010.

The claim that 200,000 nurses have resigned is incorrect. It refers to all nurses who left the NHS in England between 2010 and 2018—including those who have retired, died in service, or left for an unknown reason.

Social care

The figure of £7.7 billion comes from a report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS).

It found that by 2019 councils in England had delivered £7.7 billion of cumulative savings in adult social care services since 2010, in response to overall council funding reductions brought in by central government.

This isn’t the amount council adult social care spending has been reduced by overall. Since 2010/11 council spending on adult social care services has fallen by around 2% in real terms from around £16.5 billion to £16.1 billion in 2018/19. During that period, spending initially fell more sharply before rising again in recent years.

The £7.7 billion figure is the amount that councils have reported to ADASS that they have collectively saved over nine years. This is money that they had in previous budgets but had to make savings on.

For example, ADASS told us this figure relates to the amount of money that might be saved through efficiency measures, renegotiating contracts, innovation, reducing services or stopping them altogether. We’ve written about this before.

The £7.7 billion figure also doesn’t account for inflation. If inflation was accounted for the figure would be around £8.3 billion.

Nurses resigning

Mr Lammy also claimed that over 200,000 nurses have resigned. The wider context of his tweet seems to suggest that he meant since 2010.

We fact checked this claim in April 2019 and found that it was the figure for all nurses and health visitors who left the NHS in England between June 2010 and 2018. The big caveat it is that it doesn’t just cover staff who had resigned, it also includes those with an unknown reason for leaving as well as those who have retired or died in service.

Resignations were the single most common reason for leaving though. Over the eight years from 2010 to 2018, just under 97,000 of the 200,000 nurses and health visitors had ‘voluntary resignation’ recorded as a reason for leaving.

Overall, the number of nurses working in the NHS is higher than in 2010.

The total number of nurses and health visitors working in the NHS in England has increased by around 8,500 between July 2010 and July 2019. There were around 288,000 in July 2019.

That still doesn’t give us the full picture though as the numbers of many types of nurses within this total have decreased while others have increased. For example the numbers of mental health nurses, community nurses and health visitors have all decreased during this time.

We wrote more about the trends in what has been happening to nurse numbers over time here.

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