An over-stretched nursing workforce is being forced to carry out even more work than it was prior to the last election, with serious implications for patient care and staff welfare, a report has claimed.
The report, published by the Royal College of Nursing, analysed the effect that the coalition government’s policies have had for nursing and nursing numbers.
While the total number of posts has increased by 6,434, the “true picture is less positive”, stated the report, which is titled The Fragile Frontline.
The increase in the total nursing workforce – excluding midwives, health visitors and school nurses – is actually only 1,470, claimed the RCN.
While the number of whole time equivalent posts has increased, the number of people filling those posts has fallen by 1,845, according to the college’s analysis.
“Whoever forms the next government must… take immediate action to grow the nursing workforce”
It said the “reality on the ground” was that there were “fewer nurses, providing more care”.
The report – the last in a series published by the RCN on workforce issues before the election on 7 May – also highlighted other areas which it said the next government must address urgently.
For example, it stated that the community nursing workforce had fallen by over 3,300, despite long-term ambitions to move more care from hospitals to the community. A recent increase to student nursing places in the community, announced by Health Education England, was not enough to make up for the previous cuts, the RCN claimed.
The report also noted that last year over 30,000 potential nursing students were turned away as over 50,000 people applied for just 21,205 places – suggesting, it said, that there was no shortage of potential nurses to increase the workforce.
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “Whoever forms the next government must learn from this report and take immediate action to grow the nursing workforce, and ensure it can keep up with demand with a sustainable and long-term plan.
“Unlike many problems facing the health service, the solution to the nursing workforce is very simple, and is a matter of political will. The next government has the power to increase training places and expand the supply of nurses,” he added.
As Nursing Times went to press, neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats had responded to requests for comment in response to the report.
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