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Public unaware of scale of NHS cutbacks


93% of the public are unaware of the level of savings the NHS will have to make over the next three years, according to a new poll for the RCN.

The YouGov poll of over 4,000 UK adults looked at the public’s understanding of NHS savings and their attitudes towards the health service. Just 7% correctly identified that the NHS was being asked to make up to £20 billion in savings from its budget over the next three years. A third were unaware the NHS would need to make any savings at all during the same period.

Just one in three of those polled believed it would be possible for the NHS to make the savings required without affecting patient care.

The public highlighted both quality and equity as NHS priorities for the next government. Listing their top three priorities these were: spending NHS money more efficiently (55%), ending the postcode lottery over treatment (44%) and providing enough nurses to deliver safe care (31%).

Dr Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary said:

“These results come as politicians of all parties look at ways to make savings in the NHS. While we understand that we need to tighten our belts and work more efficiently, we agree with the public who say that it is not possible to make savings of the magnitude asked for without affecting patient care.

“We are deeply concerned that to meet efficiency savings we are already seeing short-sighted cuts for example in vital specialist nurse posts, mandatory training, and in reduced staffing levels We cannot be clearer – making slash and burn cuts to save budgets will damage patient care and risk reversing many of the improvements made in recent years. Making financial ends meet must never come ahead of patient care.”

Dr Carter added: “Our message to all political parties seeking to govern is clear – while there may be financial challenges ahead, to ensure patient safety we need safe staffing levels, time for nurses to train and sustained investment in services, staff and facilities. Only by building on the progress we have made will we have a health service that delivers the care that the public believe is possible in the future.”


Readers' comments (34)

  • The debate re measuring compassion is important when determining whether someone has a suitable character to be a nurse. After all nursing does claim to be a profession. As such people of a suitable character should only be considered for entry into such a career.

    Compassion would have to be one of the most overused words in nursing. As a profession, nursing often claims to have compassion as a core value. Yet there are some people who just should not be nurses because they lack this very humanistic trait. For example, people who get so frustrated with patients or colleagues who do not comply with their demands that they in essence resort to antagonising (or worse) the victim in some form.

    I am intrigued that some peoples' responses seem to be derisive of this issue yet all I can say is that alone highlights the point. I have nursed for 30 years in various settings (mainly acute hospitals) in several countries and it would seem the issue of lack of compassion is not unique to one country. It is vital the health profession and managers recognise this issue plus examine the potential causes. The consequences can be dire not only for patients but also for the entire wok place.

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  • The answer to the question of cuts is actually quite simple. Reduce administration staff budgets and educate admin about the needs of the service they should consider themselves priviledged to work for.

    Administration should remember the NHS is not a factory, it is not an industry; we do not make nor repair mechanical parts.

    We are dealing with individual human beings and their fanilys, many of whom may all be suffering from a common condition but will react differently both to their condition and the treatment prescribed.

    Hospital administration without any Medical or Nursing knowledge cannot possibly understand this fact. The majority are accountants who will only see pounds shillings and pence and if treatment for a MI costs X amount for patient A then it MUST cost the same for patient B. This is how they are trained to think in industry. This is how they set their budgets and reap their profits in industry.

    In their way of thinking Administration is doing their job. It is the Medical and Nursing staff who are falling down by not meeting the simple, straight forward targets which the Administrative teams have set.

    Put decision making back in the hands of those who are aware of prioritising patients before IT, profits and plush offices.

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  • Ditto to the previous comment .How do you measure compassion at the degree level? Compassion is inherent in some people while lacking in others. Can it be taught and add to the curriculum? Afterall, these nurses are the future legacy to 'the nurse with the lamp'.

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  • Ditto to the previous comment .How do you measure compassion at the degree level? Compassion is inherent in some people while lacking in others. Can it be taught and add to the curriculum? Afterall, these nurses are the future legacy to 'the nurse with the lamp'.

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  • Roger,

    Budget = X amount. How do you propose we calculate X if Y and Z are infinitely changing variables? Do you suggest that the constant X should change to reflect the infinite variability of Y and Z?

    Because Y and Z are not constantly changing variables, we know give or take a couple hundred quid how much an M.I. costs to treat. If you're going to have a national health system do you not think that the government have a responsibility to get value for money in how that is provided?

    Why do you think that we've gone back to the internal market ideology?

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  • This topic is about budget cuts, so please don't restart the whole debate over degree trained nurses, as I am one and believe it or not I do have compassion! Anyway back to the topic in hand as it has just been discussed on the BBC news in a somewhat sugar coated fashion, I completely agree with Roger regarding the amount of admin staff, it also goes for managerial staff, there are far to many chiefs, anymore frontline cuts will have serious consequences on all services, nurses are already working to capacity, I fear this will only lead to poor patient care, increased staff sickness and many more burnt out nurses. A complete overall of the infamous hierarchy would ease the situation somewhat and possibly save some money!

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  • Nursing needs to be taken out of the political arena and not messed with by politicians who haven't got a clue! You can guarantee that whoever gets into power will once again "mess" with the NHS. They need to begin asking nurses and doctors what they think the service should be and take these opinions on board. Politicians spend a few hours with us as professionals and think they know what we do (like Andy Burnham!) but they do not have the first clue.

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  • The public are unaware? No sh-it sherlock. The public don't read newspapers, the public don't watch the news, the public don't read manifesto's. The public will get the NHS they deserve.

    Ultimately nurses will get the NHS (or unemployment) they deserve as well. They will deserve it for being an apathetic workforce. They will deserve it for allowing themselves to be represented by unions like the RCN....a spineless impotent union.

    It's looking bleak folks. Nurses are going to bear the brunt of financial cuts. If figures from 26 trusts are extrapolated across the nation we will see 36,000 nursing jobs go.

    The return of 3rd world wards..waiting lists and ultimately this will cost patient's lives. It is a shocking state of affairs brought about by a quite simply shocking labour government. They have allowed the economy to take a nosedive and they have allowed the NHS to become top heavy in beaurocaracy and middle management. They haven't got a clue (a bit like the public!).

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  • Oh i should have added that things will be no different under the tories either or the lib-dems for that matter.

    What is about to happen to the NHS is going to happen no matter what.

    Gordon Brown will address the RCN today apparently. He should be booed off stage in all honesty.

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  • Where i work is a prime example of NHS wasteage. Our PCT was originally made up of 4 PCT's. It then merged into one PCT.

    This one would think would result in fewer managers...WRONG! They were just moved around and given new titles.

    We then split to commissioner and provider arms. This resulted in new managers posts being created...duplication of managers.

    There are certain people working within the NHS who know how to look after their ilk and they do so very well. There is a tremendous amount of managemet that is not required at all.

    To be even contemplating nursing redundancies is shameful. We are constantly short of nurses as it is due to recruitment freezes. The accountants who work at PCT level are only carrying out the orders of the department of health who are in turn carrying out the orders of the Govt. The buck for all this will always stop at parliamentary level.

    Politicians really are a disgraceful bunch of people. What comes around goes around though!

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