Measures announced this week by regulator NHS Improvement to bring the health service’s spending under control must not lead to cuts to the nursing workforce, unions have warned.
The Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives said attempts to reduce the number of posts as part of efforts to decrease NHS provider deficits this financial year would be met with stiff resistance.
As part of a series of interventions announced yesterday by NHS Improvement it was revealed that more than 60 NHS trusts have been targeted for over recruiting staff since 2014 and will be financially penalised.
”Efforts to get finances under control should not include cuts to the workforce”
NHS Improvement said it was necessary to “dial back” pay bill growth in the NHS.
But the RCN said penalising trusts without tackling the root cause of the issues “sends a very clear message that finance is more important than safety”.
“Efforts to get finances under control should not include cuts to the workforce. Staff, patients and their families deserve better,” said RCN associate director for policy, Lara Carmona.
“Failing to finally get to grips with workforce planning will also make it increasingly hard, if not impossible, to deliver the scale of the ambitions laid out in the [NHS’s] Five Year Forward View,” she said.
Unions attack ‘ill-informed’ bursary reform plans
“Until the financial pressures in the health service are properly tackled, then no initiative or plan will ever fully get off the ground and the NHS will continue lurching from crisis to crisis,” she added.
“Years of squeezing an overstretched workforce has left the NHS in a perilous position. Long term, sustained investment is the only way to ensure our health and care system can cope with the challenges ahead,” said Ms Carmona.
RCM director of policy Jon Skewes echoed her comments, stating that any attempts by trusts to “trim” staff numbers in “already overburdened” services would be met with “stiff resistance” from unions.
“In England, we remain thousands of midwives short of the numbers needed. Services are being kept afloat by the sheer hard work and dedication of staff, in the face of increasing demand and historic and long-standing staff shortages,” he said.
“What we must not see are trusts cutting back on staff, such as not filling vacancies, in order to save money,” he added.