The downbanding of specialist nursing posts by cash-strapped trusts attempting to save money is “unacceptable”, a government minister has stated.
Speaking last week at a pre-election debate organised by the Royal College of Nursing, health minister Dr Dan Poulter said the NHS needed to support more nurses to take on specialist roles, citing in particular diabetes care, mental health and children’s healthcare.
“I would send a very strong message to employers that downbanding is unacceptable”
However, he was challenged about the devaluing of existing specialist roles by trusts, through the moving of nurses down the Agenda for Change pay framework.
“You talk about investing in specialist nurses, but what we’re hearing a lot about at the moment is people who have those skills being downbanded and being asked to work at a lower level,” said the event’s chair, RCN head of campaigns and external affairs Jane Hughes.
In response, Dr Poulter stated that he did not think was downbanding is a “good idea” and was “something that I certainly don’t support”.
“Certainly it shouldn’t be the case that someone should be arbitrarily downbanded, because working in healthcare is a back-breakingly hard job and it is incredibly demoralising if that sort of thing happens,” he said.
Asked by Ms Hughes if that was a message he would send to trusts, he said: “I would send a very strong message to employers that downbanding is unacceptable.”
The event was also attended by Liberal Democrat care minister Norman Lamb and Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham.
The three politicians debated with each other, facing a series of questions on nursing and NHS policy from Ms Hughes and the audience.