Date Published: 9 October 2006

RCN petition highlights public feeling on worsening NHS deficits

One year after the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) first warned about the impact of NHS deficits, the number of NHS posts that may be lost is set to top 20,000.

This new figure comes as RCN General Secretary Dr Beverly Malone fights against this loss by handing over a 46,000 signature petition to 10 Downing Street this morning, protesting about the effects of deficits. She will be joined by RCN President Sylvia Denton CBE, MS Trust Chief Executive Chris Jones, and other supporters including the MS Trust, Diabetes UK, National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, and Incontact. The petition will be delivered at 10.30am today (Monday, 9 October).

The RCN also releases the results of a survey today showing the effects of Trust actions to balance the books on nurses' ongoing education and training. The RCN 'snapshot' survey of 550 nurses shows that 83.3% (463) believe training has been reduced or cut as a result of financial pressures in the NHS.

The survey also shows that more than eight out of ten nurses who took part in the survey (463 or 86.70%) believe patients are at an increased risk from the reduction in training and that the reduction is affecting their career development (422 or 84.40%).

The RCN has been monitoring the impact of financial deficits on the NHS in England and Wales, and in October 2005 spoke publicly about the danger of losing valuable and highly experienced frontline staff. Trusts began by reducing or freezing the use of nurse bank and agency staff; as the situation worsened they moved to freeze job vacancies and delete posts.

The RCN's survey suggests the financial problems in the NHS are starting to affect the training which nursing staff need, to keep their skills up to date and give patients the best possible care.

Dr Malone said:

We hope the Government will now acknowledge the concern and distress which this dash for financial balance is causing amongst nurses and patients. This petition is an important part of our campaign Keep Nurses Working and Keep Patients Safe, so we are very pleased that so many supporters have signed it.

_ We want the Government to halt the short-term fix of service cuts and redundancy, and implement a long term deficits recovery programme. Almost a year ago, we issued our first warning about the scale and impact of the cash crisis facing the NHS. Twelve months ago, the number of posts that were at risk of being lost was 3,000. Now that figure has ballooned to 20,000. It is also vital that nurses get the ongoing training they need or patient care may be compromised.

_ The simple truth is that if nursing posts are lost, patients will suffer – and we will continue to fight against this.”

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