Cutting specialist nursing services for people with long term conditions would be a “false economy” that could cost the NHS millions, the Royal College of Nursing warned today.
The RCN said specialist nurses provide a “unique lifeline” for patients and carers and help save the NHS millions through reduced complications, fewer hospital re-admissions and the expert management of long term conditions.
The college has joined forces with almost 40 health charities and lobby groups to launch a campaign to protect the role of the nurse specialist, and to give all patients with long term conditions guaranteed access to specialist nursing care.
An RCN survey of 60 health organisations, representing almost 300 specialist nurses, has found that only 36 per cent of respondents felt that everyone who needed specialist nursing currently received it.
The survey also found that more than a third of respondents have seen cuts in services over the last 12 months, and 57 per cent are concerned that posts will be threatened in the near future.
RCN chief executive Dr Peter Carter has called on the government, policy makers and employers to commit to “preserving and expanding” specialist nursing roles.
“Nurses realise that whoever wins the next election will be looking to make savings and to deliver more for less. While the temptation may be to cut or downgrade specialist nursing roles, this would be a false economy which would only add to the growing cost of treating long term conditions,” he said.
He added: “Whoever wins the next election will need to demonstrate a commitment to save not just these posts, but the skills and experience of the people who fill them.”
University Hospitals of Leicester Trust consultant nurse in respiratory medicine Jane Scullion told Nursing Times: “Specialist nurses are an easy target as they are seen as an expensive commodity. But there is a wealth of evidence to show how they improve the care of patients with long term conditions.
“If specialist nursing roles were cut it would be an enormous shame and a tremendous loss to nursing and patient care,” she told Nursing Times.
Portsmouth Hospitals Trust consultant nurse in diabetes Sue Cradock added that nurse specialists have become a “fundamental” part of the care of people with long term conditions.
She told Nursing Times: “Some [nurse specialist] roles may need to be developed further and we may need to change the way we deliver care, but the role itself must be protected. Without nurse specialists there would be much less self care [for patients with long term conditions] which would be both detrimental to the patients and costly to the NHS.”