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Education and job cuts have been 'too sharp'

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Recent cuts to nurse training and employment have been too severe and could threaten government plans to move care to the community sector, NHS workforce planners have warned.

Pre-registration places commissioned for 2007–2008 rose just 0.7% to 21,350 and remains 9.7% lower than the 23,650 commissioned in 2005–2005, Martyn Dell, development manager of the NHS Workforce Review Team, told NT.

His comments follow a WRT report, released this month, that predicts a levelling out of nurse numbers followed by a projected decrease, largely in adult/general nursing. ‘Nurse training and employment have been reduced too sharply in the light of uncertain skill-mix development and productivity gain,’ it states.

The WRT predicts the whole-time equivalent (WTE) nurse headcount will rise marginally from 307,400 in 2008 to 308,000 in 2010, before dipping back to 306,700 by 2012. It also calls for nurses’ and midwives’ skills to be enhanced for primary care settings. ‘The development of nursing and midwifery roles is key to the delivery of a modernised healthcare workforce,’ the report says. ‘Education and practice development need to be maintained and built upon with consideration for advanced practice and new and enhanced roles.’

Mr Dell said it was difficult to predict exact demand for nurses over the coming five-to-ten years, especially before junior health minister Lord Darzi’s review of the NHS was complete. But he said: ‘What we can see with this shift from secondary to primary care is that the impact on the workforce could be quite considerable.’

Barrie Brown, Unite/CPHVA lead officer for nursing, called for more integrated NHS workforce planning. ‘The government will never deliver or equip the workforce for what’s expected from the Darzi review unless a holistic approach to workforce planning is taken,’ he said.

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