The NHS has delivered improved performance in the second quarter of 2012 despite figures showing the size of its workforce is continuing to shrink.

The quarterly update on NHS performance by NHS deputy chief executive David Flory shows the number of hospital and community health services staff fell by 2,081 full time equivalents, or 0.2 per cent between July and September.

The largest fall was seen among locum doctors, whose numbers fell by 51 or 2.5 per cent between the first three months of the year and the second quarter. The overall number of doctors increased by 1,402.

There was a drop of 2,244 nurses, the total number of nurses midwifes and health visitors seeing a total drop of 2,433 or 0.8 per cent.

Despite the drop in numbers the quarterly update maintained performance and made progress on some key targets.

Cases of MRSA bacteraemia were 14 per cent lower than the same quarter last year, with just 228 cases reported. C difficile infections were 23 per cent down, with 3,866 infections reported.

Overall the NHS delivered better access to treatment times than the 18 week target and the number of long waiters has continued to drop.

Mixed sex breaches have reduced to 0.1 per 1,000 episodes, with a total of 591 breaches while all eight cancer performance measures were achieved.

The document said: “These achievements should be recognised because they are the result of significant efforts by staff continuing to focus on performance in what is a period of significant change.

“It is vital these efforts continue as we move into the winter period.”