NHS bureaucrats: 20,000 fewer under the Coalition?

Published: 6th May 2015

"What we did in terms of changing the NHS is we got rid of 20,000 bureaucrats"—David Cameron, 26 March 2015

There is no clear definition of a 'bureaucrat', which tends to be used in pejorative terms to describe managers, planners, and administrators working in the health service. So we can't know on how the number of 'bureaucrats' has changed.

Mr Cameron is referring to a 19,500 drop in the number of people employed in NHS "infrastructure support" when comparing May 2010 to December 2014 (using the full time equivalent measure). But this definition might not chime with what everyone would see as 'bureaucratic'. Some of them may work in catering, for example, or IT.

As the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) says:

"NHS infrastructure support includes the following sub groups; managers and senior managers, central functions (such as personnel, finance, IT, legal services and library services), and hotel, property and estates (such as laundry, catering, caretakers and domestic services)."

We do know that within this group, there was a 6,700 drop in the number of managers and senior managers. But we don't have a clear breakdown of where the other 12,900 of the 19,500 fall came from. It may have been mostly administrators, or mostly caterers. The figures don't tell us.

It isn't the first time Mr Cameron has made a claim like this.


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