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'Nursing should be the last place to hunt for cash'

The NHS nurse workforce has fallen by nearly 5,000 in the past two years, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust has offered all its 4,500 staff voluntary redundancy to help it find savings of £20m, and A&E departments are facing increasing pressure.

Add all this together, and I think you’d be correct in feeling like nursing has a target on its back.

While the redundancy situation in Kent or the challenges in A&E aren’t specifically about nursing, you can bet that nursing will not be immune to any loss of posts or increase in pressure. But should it be?

When savings need to be found, it is nursing that will frequently make the biggest sacrifice. And end up filling in because cleaning, portering or secretarial services are also cut.

When will those in charge of health budgets realise that nursing should be the last place to hunt for spare cash, not the first?

Nursing can make huge efficiency savings and can transform services from ward to board - and that is the only way to keep costs low without compromising on quality. And yet, the profession is frequently considered as a costly expense, supposedly large enough to have chunks taken out of without anyone noticing.

But people do notice. Any changes to nursing numbers can be evidenced to adversely affect patient safety. As we reported last week, some hospitals are having to recruit extra staff to ensure patient safety after a surge in demand.

And the problem is not isolated to acute care. As the older district nursing workforce retires, we shall be left with no one to care for people who have been promised care at home. We are told health policy is founded on the potential savings of moving more care into the community but as the district nursing workforce is contracting, the maths isn’t adding up. We are sitting on a workforce timebomb.

And while staffing numbers fall, no one seems to be pouring funding into training more nurses. As our news story revealed in our 18 September issue, nurse training places have been cut by more than 2,500 over three years.

It seems no one is recognising that to cater for an ageing population living longer with an increasing number of complex conditions, we are going to need more nurses, and lots of them. But with the move to more local control, is anyone really going to see the bigger picture and appreciate just how much nurses can do - and what the world would be like with fewer of them? Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Chat live with the editor and other nurses on Twitter every Wednesday at 1pm at #NTtwitchat

Readers' comments (18)

  • what do you expect from this govt

    they dont give a toss about nurses

    as long as they and thier friends get richer and richer who cares about us "PLEBS"

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  • "The Conservative Party | Get Involved | Join the Party - United Kingdom

    There are two ways to join the Conservatives: as a Member or as a Friend. Both are great ways to show your support, so choose the one that's right for you."

    as posted on Google

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  • No surprise there. Everything that has been said or done in recent times has shown that Government and Trusts have a complete lack of respect for nurses and the job we do....they seem to think that you can run health services without nurses. Ultimately, every Trust has to save money and nursing, as the biggest expenditure, is the one that gets hit. Yes, in the short term, it will save money, but long-term? It will cost more: Patient Safety is sacrificed leading to unnecessary deaths and complications which result in lawsuits costing the Trusts more money than they saved.

    Ultimately, Trust bosses care about one thing: Money. And, of course, their fellow Management staff: Why would they get rid of their Management friends? The Government wants more care in the community but is doing absolutely nothing to enable it.

    The Nursing workforce may have dropped by 5,000 in the last 2 years but I expect it to drop by more than double that in the next 2 years. In 20 years of being involved in Nursing, as a student and trained nurse, I have never had less confidence in those that are in charge than I do right now

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  • read the article in todays guardian regarding what andy burnham intends to do when labour get back in govt

    repeal this awful act and get our nhs back where it belongs for the people not rich tory doners who want to profit from ill people

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 2-Oct-2012 6:49 pm

    Great news. Most everyone seems in agreement they want to protect our NHS and give it back to US.

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  • Matilda McCrrimmon

    Unimaginative management , workforce numbers or pay and conditions easiest way to make savings where staffing is highest costs. Forget reason for this is healthcare is people looking after other people.

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  • could be in the 21st century that Britain can no longer afford the NHS and an alternative model now has to be found.

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  • mid yorkshire trust is making 40 admin staff redundant and other admin staff having re-banding

    the CEO said this was the first lot more staff to follow

    they came to this paying a privaye company 3.4 million pounds to come up with idea!!!!

    it is a piece in yesterdays daily mirror not got the link sorry

    oh my god am I missing something here??

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  • sorry got it

    so they can give thier tory friends a lot more profit and stuff the workers!!!

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  • I wish Cameron's mate would stop posting crap tory adverts over this site. Considering the decimation of the NHS and the lowest morale within the nursing profession by this government, it is extremely offensive.

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  • Sorry am I missing something here, just as happened in the 80s the Tories create a crisis - cut the public purse and create a workforce that is exploitable and will work for less.This occurs until the selfish swinging middle eventually see the personal affect and vote Labour and then back round the loop we go!

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  • strange labour supporters get very defensive and angry when criticised but the feel free to criticise and insult the Tories all they like. In a debate everybody to be open enough to listen to different points of view even though they disagree with them. they are always free to challenge any comments but I see no need for offence and insults.

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  • tinkerbell

    so it's OK for the tories to shaft the nation, the public sector workers and NHS patients but it's not alright if they get called a few names. Are you for real?

    If they're not offended why should you be? Are you being offended on their behalf?

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  • Anonymous 10pm - High moral tone - the last redoubt of those who feel superior and don't have a constructive point of view. What's offensive about revealing a well tried and trusted Tory stratergy. As Neil Kinnock stated in 1992 - under the Tories - don't ever grow old, don't ever be sick and if you are both don't ever be poor.You have lost the point if you are complaining about semantics. Go onto an NHS ward, be a patient, a cleaner, a HCA or a ward sister and feel the pressure - oh and by the way we request that whilst we expect you provide 100% loyalty and commitment you all consider redundency as we can't manage our budget .

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  • let me ask all you people who voted in this govt

    Can you honestly say you are proud of what is happening on a daily basis to our nhs??

    are you happy that our pay and conditions are being attacked on a daily basis??

    and will you all be happy when as you get older and the nhs is fully privatised, which is all the tories are ever interested in...gas water railways carnt afford your treatment or care because you will need health insurance

    if you can answer yes to all these...well done you have helped them achieve their aim!!!!

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  • Anonymous | 4-Oct-2012 9:59 am:

    I am ashamed to say that I helped vote in this Government....I voted for the Lib Dems, hoping for some sort of change. Ultimately, they have gone into coalition and become the mat that Cameron and his pals wipe their shoes on!

    Back to the specific OP: The first sentence says it all really.....this was the Trust, don't forget, that let dozens of people die because it chose to ignore the C. Diff outbreak it had in progress. So, frankly, any move they make would never surprise me anymore.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Oct-2012 9:59 am

    now for a little rational reflection on the matter!

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  • The Govt' has systematically crippled the NHS so that some can make £much from privat... sorry I mean -



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