The current economic crisis may well be the biggest threat to nursing and patient care in living memory, claims the RCN.
A report of a roundtable discussion - attended by health policy experts who reviewed the probable aftershocks of the recession on public finances - listed the key issues which jeopardised patient care following previous downturns.
These included unfilled vacancies, reduced training and public health budgets, “slash and burn” job cuts and poor staff morale.
RCN chief executive Dr Peter Carter said: “The NHS has made excellent progress in recent years - it would be devastating for these gains to be lost. Nurses can and should lead the way in introducing innovations to help improve patient care and to make the NHS as effective as possible.
“As we approach the next general election it is important that all political parties realise the impact these decisions could have on the 1.3 million people working for the NHS.”
The report recommends that patient care must be central for nurses and policy makers, and having the right skills mix is crucial to delivering this care. It also highlights the value and effectiveness of specialist nurses who support patients with long term conditions.
The paper will be submitted to the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery in England.