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NHS is 'sleepwalking' into staffing crisis, warns RCN

The NHS in England is “sleepwalking into a nursing crisis” that is drawing closer as the size of staff cuts increase, the Royal College of Nursing warned today.

The college has published a report updating on its Frontline First campaign, which was launched in July 2010 to monitor the threat of cuts to the NHS workforce.   

The RCN said the number of NHS posts at risk of being cut in England had now “climbed” to 61,276, an increase of 6,000 since its last update six months ago when it identified 55,366 posts at risk.

The report also highlighted NHS Information Centre figures showing the total NHS workforce had decreased by 20,790 whole time equivalent posts since the coalition government came to power in May 2010.

Since then there has been a loss of 5,216 WTE qualified nursing, midwifery and health visiting posts. The number of midwives has gone up by 943 WTE over the period, but the number of qualified nurses decreased by 6,147 and the number of health visitors slightly by 12.

Meanwhile, the total number of doctors has increased by 3,024 WTE and the number of qualified scientific, therapeutic and technical staff by 2,331.

The report stated: “If the government continues on its current path it will find itself stranded in a perfect storm of an ageing population with increasing health care demands, but without the adequate nursing workforce to deal with it.”

However, it said the creation of the new body Health Education England represented a “real opportunity” to take a “long-term approach to workforce planning and secure the future supply of nursing staff”.

Commenting on the report, RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “For the past two and a half years, the government’s consistent rhetoric has been that frontline posts and services are being protected. Sadly, that is simply not the case.

“On a daily basis, nurses are telling us that they do not have enough staff to deliver good quality care.”

Against the overall picture of falling posts, Nursing Times has found some NHS acute trusts – mostly in the Midlands – are recruiting more nurses to maintain the safety of patients. Their relative proximity to Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust may be a factor.

In addition, a Nursing Times investigation in October discovered that foundation trusts were deferring some staff cuts for a year or two because services were moving into the community more slowly than expected. However, this reprieve suggests they plan to cut harder in future.

Readers' comments (23)

  • welcome to your tory nhs

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  • the 'perfect storm' is here. the tories need to go, they are out to ruin the nhs but will not take any responsibility for it's 'failures'.

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  • I don't believe for one minute that any trust is taking on more staff, they reduce staff then employ a handful just to look as if they are increasing numbers. they still remain short-staffed. government puppets who think nurses are stupid.

    what's it got to do with being near the mid-staffs hospital? every hospital in the country is under-staffed and every patient is at risk.

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  • I know this is not really relevant but can someone please tell me when it was permissable for an SEN who did not complete the conversion course to apply fir a band 6??She is already getting RGN pay and fair enough is doing SNs job but surely you cant have a ward managers post

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  • Ward managers are band 7, but she shouldn't be a band 6 unless she's a RN.

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  • Tiger Girl

    'Sleepwalking' into a crisis - that implies people are unaware of the looming crisis !

    Where have these people who have not noticed, been ?

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  • presumably someone who has an SEN qualification has had years and years of nursing experience. All qualified nurses are now known as RN's, if they think she is the best candidate for the post then good luck to her.

    you have said she is already doing a staff nurses job so what is the problem.

    you're right, it's not relevant. I assume she will get yours and others support if she is successful.

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  • this is the begining of the end of the NHS thanks to our current government! We are seeing font line nursing posts being cut in addition to all staff being downgraded by a band - this at a time when we have rising registration cuts, fuel and rising patient numbers to treat. When will they see the mess they are creating - when thee is a surge in disatisfied clients out there!!!

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  • boring, boring, boring.
    it's all been said before
    there are not enough nurses
    doesn't anyone listen anymore

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  • I feel so sad, after giving 40years of nursing we have come to this! I am now retired so feel I will never receive the care that I gave, hopefully I will never need it but of I do ........

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  • Community Nurses are an incredibly highly skilled workforce they absorb whatever is thrown their way, and there is just not enough recognition for what they do.

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  • tinkerbell

    Nurses, these are your new terms and conditions should you choose to accept them. It basically consists of one condition.


    Get paid less for doing more with less. Will you accept less? Less staff, less pay but more work for even less.

    Do you accept?

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  • Yes they do Tink, of course they do. With a huge grin and an exposed backside while they bend over too.

    Excuse the imagery, but that is exactly what nurses are allowing the trusts/management/government to do to them!

    Only yourselves to blame, people.

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  • tinkerbell

    mike | 14-Nov-2012 6:32 am

    your imagery has made my bottom twinge. Stop it.

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  • Yes But

    I'm not sure that mike should be introducing such distracting mental images, into these pages !

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  • tinkerbell

    This unelected government would privatise their grannies for a fast buck.

    The NHS, the police, who's next?

    In a few hours private security companies like G4S could be on their way to controlling big parts of the police. The new police and crime commissioner elections are tomorrow (Thursday 15th) and there’s a big danger that pro-privatisation candidates could get in with just a few votes.

    That’s why we need to sound the alarm and get our friends and family to the polling stations armed with the facts. Over the last few days, 38 Degrees members have emailed all the candidates to find out who supports privatisation. You can see what your candidates say about privatisation at the bottom of this email.

    Please forward this email to your friends and family to get them to go and vote.

    Hardly anyone knows that these elections are even happening - experts reckon less than one in five people could vote. That means there’s a huge danger that we could end up with commissioners that few people even voted for privatising our police forces.

    Voting is easy - you just go along to your polling station, probably the same place as you would vote in a general election. Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm so it's easy to go before or after work and you don't even need to bring your polling card with you.

    Please forward this email to your family and friends, and remind them to vote in the police elections tomorrow, or share a reminder to vote on Facebook by clicking this link:

    Thanks for being involved,

    James, David, Hannah and the 38 Degrees team

    Here’s what the Kent candidates said to 38 Degrees members about privatisation. Not all of them have given a clear answer about privatisation, some have made a distinction between “back office” and “frontline” privatisation. Others have said they won’t privatise but may consider outsourcing - having a private company take over some parts of the work that police forces do.

    Harriet Yeo (Labour):
    I am happy to confirm that I would not privatise any part of Kent Police services, that I will not allow G4S or similar companies to be involved in any part of Police Services and that I do not have any connection with any company that might be interested in contracts for Police Services.

    I am the only candidate

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  • NHS sleepwalking into staffing crisis???
    Try asking anyone currently employed by Bolton trust. Looming redundancies and other cuts as they try to make ends meet.

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  • well......doctors and other AHP's close ranks and look after each other.....why don't nurses?

    A colleague with over 35 years experience told me once "love nursing....hate nurses"....

    If only they'd told me this while I was training....I could have had a long, successful, fulfilling career as a call centre operator....

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  • Yes But

    From the Whisleblower one:

    Anonymous | 16-Nov-2012 5:57 pm

    anon 6pm - I don't know where you work but here in the SW we do need help. We are so under-staffed and we are really worried about the staff and patients.

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  • Sleepwalking? Yet more useless rubbish spouted by the so-called unions! No-one is sleepwalking as we are all fully aare of the dangers to both our profession and our patients. It is just yet another example of one of the unions saying plenty and doing nothing. If anything, it is the unions who are sleepwalking. It's all very well the RCN monitoring jobs and staffing levels but what exactly is the point when that is all they do? They monitor, they report, they publish, they move on.
    I am not surprised that doctors numbers haven't been affected...after all, they have competent Unions who stand up for their members and take action.
    Taking into account the upcoming Registration Fee THEFT and the worsening state of the NHS and Management and Government completely un-bothered by patient safety and nurses being criticised left right and centre, I realise that it is probably time to find a different profession, one where employees are treated with some level of dignity and respect and where they are not just considered to be a drain on resources.
    As for the possibility of Labour being re-elected in the future? By then, it will be too late as the Tories and Lib-Dems will have already completely destroyed the NHS

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