DHSC cuts core headcount by 16.5% in nine months

Rees-Mogg lauds health secretary for “leading by example” in shrinking the size of the civil service
Steve Barclay

By Jim Dunton

01 Aug 2023

The Department of Health and Social Care has cut its core departmental headcount by 16.5% since October, equating to 662 fewer staff, according to figures provided to parliament.

Health minister Will Quince said the department had 3,978 staff at the end of October last year, when Steve Barclay was reappointed to the role of health secretary by new PM Rishi Sunak. Quince said that as of 18 July, DHSC’s core departmental headcount stood at 3,316.

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, former minister for civil service reform and a cabinet colleague of Barclay’s in Boris Johnson’s government, said the figures were evidence of the health secretary’s commitment to last year’s controversial proposals to reduce departmental headcount by 20%.

“Steve was the driving force behind Boris’s attempt to reduce the civil service by 90,000, and is putting this into practice at his own department,” Rees-Mogg told the Telegraph.

“He is leading by example and others should follow, because nothing annoys taxpayers more than gratuitous waste and overmanning in the civil service.”

The figures provided by Quince came in response to a written question from Rees-Mogg, answered on Wednesday last week.

The latest official statistics on annual civil service headcount are due to be published tomorrow. They will detail the size of departments and their agencies at the end of March this year.

According to last year’s data, DHSC had a core departmental staff of 4,110 in March 2022. However its total headcount including the UK Health Security Agency and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency was 11,800.

Data contained in the 2021 civil service statistics show that DHSC’s core departmental headcount was 3,520 at the end of March that year. The now-abolished Public Health England added a further 6,890 staff and MHRA another 1,340 to give a total headcount of 11,750.

In his response to Rees-Mogg, Quince was clear that the figures did not show the DHSC’s “full establishment workforce”, contingent labour, Fast Streamers, or secondments into the department.

The staffing cuts attributed to Barclay are understood to have been achieved mainly through a recruitment freeze.

Last month the Ministry of Defence confirmed that it is looking to reduce civilian headcount by up to 3,000 through freezing recruitment. That would equate to a 5% cut in its total staff, which was given at 58,200 in 2022’s civil service statistics.


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