The census shows an increase in full time equivalent capacity (FTE) for doctors and nurses and a fall in managers, with an overall reduction in headcount of 17,000 since September 2005.
The DoH has said that despite the fall in headcount, clinical capacity continues to increase as FTEs go up.
Health minister Lord Hunt said: 'Although there has been a reduction in headcount amongst qualified nurses, there has been an increase of 665 FTE nurses. This means that patients are getting an increased amount of clinical time from nurses.'
Dr Peter Carter, RCN general secretary, said: ‘Overall clearly the numbers of nurses have increased over the last ten years. But the figures themselves show that in the last year alone the NHS has lost nearly 7,000 nurses, confirming our repeated warnings about the impact of deficit led cuts.
'And when you dig below the surface even further an estimated 17% of the headline increase in nurse numbers is made up of double counting existing nurses working extra shifts. Meanwhile internationally recruited nurses who make up a significant number of the extra nurses now face the prospect of having to leave the UK at the end of their contracts under new immigration laws
'With leaked government figures predicting a shortage of 14,000 nurses by 2011 and another 180,000 nurses due to retire over the next ten years, the future potentially looks bleak.
'Yes, there has been some welcome progress over the last ten years, but in the decade that lies ahead there are huge challenges that ministers must face up to and tackle.'
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