One in 10 specialist nurses believe they are at risk of redundancy and more than a third are being asked to cover non specialist staff shortages, according to a survey by the Royal College of Nursing.
The survey of 800 specialist nurses found that 62% are seeing cutbacks in their specialty and 38% are being asked to cover staff shortages outside their particular specialist area.
Additionally 80% of those questioned said financial pressures in the workplace have a negative impact on patient care and 11% said they were at risk of redundancy.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “Innovative nurse-led schemes, which not only improve patient care but also save money, are the future of the NHS.
“They provide high quality care and many of them could easily be rolled out across the health service, saving millions of pounds. In many instances, care can be best managed by community-based services, with as little hospital involvement as possible.”
A parallel consultation of clinical charities – including Macmillan Cancer Support, Epilepsy Action and Parkinson’s UK – found more than 62% had seen cutbacks in specialist nurse services in their field.
Many specialist nurses have been targeted for cutbacks during previous downturns, and the RCN is concerned that their unique skills may be lost from the NHS forever.
Macmillan chief executive Ciarán Devane said: “If the NHS is to meet the quality and productivity challenge, one thing it can’t afford to do is cut specialist support. It is proven that clinical nurse specialists improve patient care and save the NHS money in the long term by keeping patients out of hospitals, where they often don’t need to be if they are given the right care and support.”
The RCN cited evidence from the Office for Public Management, which found one nurse-led scheme in Cheshire generated £23 for every pound spent on specialist nursing, as well as significant improvements in patient care.
The OPM analysis found the NHS Central and Eastern Cheshire oxygen therapy service saves up to £1.1m per annum and improves quality of life for patients. Over a nine month period, 299 patients were kept at home, who would have been admitted to hospital, thanks to increased community support.
If each of the 152 NHS Trusts in the UK prevented just two emergency chronic obstructive pulmonary disease admissions per month, the overall cost saving would be £8.5m per annum, according to the OPM.