The rate at which NHS trusts in England are announcing cuts to nursing posts is “accelerating” while the rate has slowed in the rest of the UK, according to the Royal College of Nursing.
Head of policy and international Howard Catton told the RCN Frontline First conference in London that the college’s estimate for nursing posts at risk in the UK had reached 36,000. In April the RCN had identified nearly 27,000 “at risk” posts in the UK, 18,000 of which were in England.
Although he said the figures needed more analysis, he said, “It looks as though across the UK, particularly in Wales and Scotland, the rate of job losses has slowed, but in England the pace is accelerating.
“There’s an argument that [nursing] is actually being targeted at a greater number than across the [NHS] workforce,” he said.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said the college had “busted” the myth that the NHS was not being cut by the government.
He said: “Compared to many other departments the NHS didn’t have the cuts, but the comparisons are odious… the NHS is being tasked to strip out billions of pounds.”
He said he did not believe that the number posts being cut could be taken out without a drop in the quality of nursing.
“They are not efficiency savings, they are inefficient savings. These savings will cost money… This will end up providing care on the cheap,” he said.
Mr Catton also warned of a “transition gap” in the provision of healthcare since there was “minimal evidence” that services being taken out of the acute sector were being moved to community settings.
He added that a transition plan was needed to ensure the workforce was prepared to provide care outside of hospital
He said: “If we move to a model that is about care closer to home then we may have a number of nurses in the wrong place. If we’re going to change the model of care we may need to change where they are working. But this means we need to support them to work in new roles, in new ways and new settings. You need to support them through a transition.”