Date Published: 15 April 2007

Nurses' damning report spells out devastating effects of NHS financial crisis

More than 22,300 NHS posts have been lost in the last 18 months because of the financial crisis hitting the health service, according to a new report fromthe Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

On the eve of its annual Congress, the RCN launches "Our NHS - Today and Tomorrow" which lays bare the myth that the deficits crisisin the NHS has been solved.

Speaking todaythe General Secretary of the RCN, Dr Peter Carter, warns that unless the government addresses the situation immediately, the devastating actions taken last yearwill continue to hit patient care and destabilise the NHS for the foreseeable future.

" The deficits issue is not history - it is real, entrenchedand continues to hit patient care, services and jobs. Yes, the NHS achieved overall financial balance last year - but at what cost?

_ Our NHS remains caught up in a rip-tide of cuts, rushed reforms and poor workforce planning. This is hitting services, hurting patients, undermining staff morale and threatening the hard-won progress made over recent years."

The report shows how the government's insistence that trusts balance their books last year has led to thousands of jobs disappearing from the health service through a combination of redundancies, post deletions and recruitment freezes. Deficit-led cuts also continue to hit hard across the NHS; specialist nurses are seeing their posts downgraded and lost, public health and training budgets are being used to plug deficits elsewhere in the system and newly qualified nurses are unable to find jobs.

The effects of the financial crisis on services to patients are also detailed in the report including;

The loss of specialist services including those for multiple sclerosis and epilepsy

  • The loss of rehabilitation and intermediate care services
  • The loss of mental health in-patient and day care services
  • A negative impact on waiting lists and waiting times with waits of up to nine months for some diagnostic and specialist services
  • An extension of closure programmes for community hospitals in rural communities
  • The loss of bereavement and end of life services for children and families

Importantly, the report sets out a range of solutions to the crisis and the steps needed to safeguard the NHS. It callson the government to talk to, and work with, frontline staff; give trusts more time and flexibility to achieve financial balance and move away from the culture of imposing redundancies, vacancy freezes and post deletions and insteadimplement sustainable workforce planning.

The effects of deficits on nurses at every stage of their career are also revealed in the report with specialist nurses bearing the brunt of cut backs and reform overload. New figures released today indicate that:

  • the vast majority of specialist nurses (87%) said thatNHS cuts were having an "adverse" effect on patient care
  • nearly half (47%) were aware of service cuts in their specialist area
  • almost one in five (19.20%) said they were personally at risk of redundancy
  • more than half (55%) also said they knew of other specialist nurses in their field who were at risk of losing their jobs

Peter Carter said:

" The NHS is the jewel in the crown of our public services. That's why we are asking the government to listen to, and work with nurses and their colleagues in the NHS Team.

_ Our report offers practical solutions to meet the challenges and problems our health service faces. We'll be sending a copy of this report to every single MP in the country - for the sake of our NHS I urge them to read it and act upon it."

Source: Royal College of Nursing (RCN), UK.
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