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Nurses report first effects of recession at frontline

  • 4 Comments

Nurses have begun to feel the effects of the public sector spending squeeze in their workplaces.

In a Nursing Times online poll of 600 readers, 86 per cent said they had experienced cost control measures at their trust as a result of the recession.

The survey follows a report by the management consultants McKinsey, seen by Nursing Times, that advised the Department of Health to consider recruitment freezes to help cut costs. Seventy-eight per cent of hospital nurses said restrictions on agency or bank staff had been introduced at their trusts and 49 per cent said there were recruitment freezes.

These freezes were reported as being even higher among community nurses with 63 per cent saying they had been introduced at their workplace. The NHS has been trying to cut agency staff for years, but 71 per cent of nurses said they had first noticed this and other measures taking effect over the last six months.

Nurses reported that cover for staff sickness and maternity leave were not being filled and overtime had been banned.

One said the reduction in staffing levels had left colleagues “stretched to breaking point” with posts on the ward cut from 12 to eight. A community nurse said a recruitment freeze had increased the workload “to the point where it is making good, hardworking nurses ill”.

Both hospital and community nurses also reported equipment shortages and attributed these to financial constraints.

“We often seem to run out over the weekend and have to beg off other wards until our delivery. Pharmacy supplies often run out completely,” said one nurse.

“We even run out of some foodstuffs over the weekend. I joined the NHS in 2002 and am ashamed to say we are certainly not providing the standard of care now that we did [then]. I am totally disillusioned by it all.”

Nurses also said they were under pressure to see more patients and to discharge them earlier.

Imperial College Healthcare Trust nursing director Janice Sigsworth said that with length of stays reducing, patient throughput had increased.

“This means the amount of time spent dealing with admissions and discharge has increased. That can feel like a more intensive workload,” she said.

She added she was not aware of any recruitment freezes at her trust or in London but that they had given a renewed push to “good housekeeping measures”.

“We found that in some areas sickness levels, agency staff and vacancy levels have been creeping up so we’ve been asking senior nurses to manage this as well as they can to minimise additional cost.”

The survey’s findings were no surprise to Unison head of nursing Gail Adams, who said: “These results mirror Unison’s own survey, released this week, showing that funding cuts were among the top fi ve concerns for NHSworkers, with fear of losing their jobs topping the poll. Cutting back on agency staff and freezing recruitment adds to work pressures of already busy staff.”

NHS chief executive David Nicholson has said the NHS needs to make savings of £15bn- £20bn by 2014. Royal College of Nursing senior employment relations adviser Gerry O’Dwyer said it was inevitable that nursing would be affected.

“If you are dealing with £15bn-£20bn, you don’t save that by not providing biscuits at board meetings. It’ll be through patient length of stay, staff productivity and skill mix,” he said.

The Nursing Times survey came as the RCN said it was involved in “very tentative” discussions about linking nurses’ productivity to pay.

Mr O’Dwyer said: “We have had some engagement with employers about how that might be achieved. We want to explore how our members might benefi t from that individually and collectively.”

But he stressed talks were far from the negotiation stage.

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • Nurses have the potential to make an enormous impact through industrial action...but never do so. I realise it is the 'caring' profession. This mindset is nursings undoing.

    Whilst ever nurses are prepared to do more for the same and cover for recruitment freezes managers will be quite happy and will heap more on. Nurses are not militant enough. And dare i say it the reason for that is that it is a female dominated profession with weak 'brown-nosing' leaders. There is no way a male dominated profession would stand for this kind of treatment.

    Ultimately those to pay the 'price' will be the public as services are hit and standards fall.

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  • I TOTALLY AGREE WITH THE SENTIMENTS VOICED IN THE 2 PREVIOUS POSTINGS - NURSES ARE THEIR OWN WORST ENEMIES. WE CAPITULATE COMPLETELY WHEN ANYONE MENTIONS "PATIENTS SUFFERING" AS A RESULT OF 'STRIKING'! WE TAKE ON MORE WORK WITHOUT ANY FINANCIAL REMUNERATION; WE DO LONGER HOURS FOR NO ADDITIONAL PAY OR TIME OFF IN LIEU; WE DO TRAINING IN OUR OWN TIME OR, IF GIVEN TIME, WE DO IT AT OUR OWN EXPENSE! WOULD YOU CATCH OUR MEDICAL COLLEAGUES DEMURELY AGREEING TO ANY OF THIS? NO!!! AND WHY NOT? BECAUSE THEY HAVE HAD STRIKES IN THE PAST AND CONSEQUENTLY THE GOVERNMENT RESPECTS THIS HISTORYAND TAKES THEM FAR MORE SERIOUSLY WHENEVER THEY APPROACH THE NEGOTIATING TABLE WITH GRIEVANCES OR DISPUTES OVER PAY. HOW CAN ANY POLITICAL PARTY WORTH IT'S SALT PROFESS TO LISTEN TO NURSING UNIONS WHEN ALL THEY SAY IS "WE MIGHT JUST WITHDRAW OUR LABOUR; AND IF YOU DON'T LISTEN WE MIGHT JUST THREATEN YOU WITH DOING THAT AGAIN!!!!! "
    NURSES ARE A NOTORIOUS SOFT TOUCH. POLITICALLY NURSES ARE LIVING IN THE PAST; MARTYRDOM MIGHT IMPRESS THE MASSES BUT IT DON'T PAY THE BILLS! BOTH NURSES AND THEIR UNIONS NEED TO GROW SPINES AND START CARRYING OUT THE THREATS. YES, INITIALLY PATIENT CARE MAY SUFFER, BUT EXCUSE ME HASN'T ANYONE NOTICED -IT'S SUFFERING ALREADY!!! STAFF CUTS, RECRUITMENT FREEZES AND LACK OF EQUIPMENT ARE LEADING TO INCREASED PRESSURE AND FRUSTRATION ON PROFESSIONALS WHO ALREADY TRY TO DO EVERYTHING WITH NOTHING! THIS ULTIMATELY LEADS TO HIGH LEVELS OF SICKNESS AND SO THE CYCLE SPIRALS EVER DOWNWARDS!
    BY TAKING SERIOUS INDUSTRIAL ACTION NOW WE CAN IMPROVE PATIENT CARE IN THE FUTURE BY SHOWING THAT NURSES ARE NO LONGER PRETTY LITTLE VOCATIONAL MAIDS, WIPING THE FEVERED BROW, BUT ARE A UNIFIED BODY OF PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE SICK OF BEING USED AS THE DOORMATS OF THE NHS!!!

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  • Unions are and continue to be a waste of our time and take our money from us for little return. With regards cuts, managers do need to do this and there is significant waste within the NHS. Overall to reduce costs introduce a universal purchasing body, stop the inhouse costings/work/building which are expensive and often poorly carried out with only one tener sought from a "permitted" provider that can charge what they want ultimately. Look at the middle management and senior management areas, get rid of poor performing staff not manufacture posts for them to avoid trouble and finally we as the NHS continue to pay over the odds for our drugs through licencing laws.

    The working/caring staff and ward areas are often the ones identified to reduce costs but a lot of it could be made long before we give the patient a wash or medication.

    The main and only reason that we join unions is not for support of the union but to provide an insurance for us in the event of litigation. A private insurer needs to compete with the unions to see how many of us actually want to be in a union. I for one would prefer not to be

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  • I trained as a nurse uin the early 1970's becauuse I wanted to care for patients, during my 30+ years in the nursing profession in the NHS I have been proud of my work. I am not a walk over!
    There are other ways to provide good patient care and rather than striking - by stopping the completion of all non essential and beaurocratic paperwork more time can be spent with the patients.
    There is no need in the NHS for managers to have PA's and the PS's to have secretaries.
    It is also funny that the same names keep reoccuring in the NHS. People who have been useless in certain roles the re emerge as useless in other roles. This is a waste of money and would not be allowed to occur in the Private Sector.

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