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RCN claims 56,000 NHS posts cut or at risk


More than 56,000 NHS posts have been lost or become at risk over the past 18 months, according to latest data gathered by the Royal College of Nursing as part of its Frontline First campaign.

In its latest update report on the campaign, the college said 56,058 posts had been lost or earmarked for closure across the UK since April 2010, of which 48,029 were in England.

Around a third of those affected are nursing posts, the RCN believes. The figures are based on information collected from 220 NHS trusts across all sectors, with more detailed analysis of 41.

The report, published on Sunday, also warned that freezes on recruitment, or the use of bank and agency staff, would contribute to fewer nurses on the ground.

In addition, the report said the “downbanding” of posts was common, with leavers replaced by new staff at lower grades or current staff moved down a band. This is in spite of health secretary Andrew Lansley telling the Commons health select committee he had no knowledge of the problem affecting existing staff (news, page 2, 18 October).

The Frontline First campaign was launched in November 2010. Its last update, published in April and based on information from 21 trusts, identified nearly 10,000 NHS posts in England due to be axed by 2015, of which 4,429 were nursing positions.

RCN general secretary Peter Carter said the latest figures revealed the “deeply worrying acceleration in NHS post losses in recent months”.

He said: “Staffing levels should be based on rigorous clinical evidence and should not be arbitrarily lowered in a short sighted effort to save money.”

RCN head of policy Howard Catton acknowledged the college’s analysis did not take into account all new posts created in service redesign programmes, which might counterbalance some of the posts lost.

But he said there was scant evidence of “true service redesign”, as opposed to services simply being downgraded which felt “like cuts”.

Among the biggest cuts identified are at Heatherwood and Wexham Park NHS Foundation Trust. The  RCN says it lost 280 full time posts in 2010-11 and plans to cut another 533 by 2014, equating to more than a quarter of its total 2010 headcount.

Heatherwood and Wexham Park human resources director Janet Lynch said the trust “did not recognise” the 533 figure, and was redrawing its plans for 2011-14. She emphasised that out of the 280 posts lost in 2010-11 only 19 were made redundant, adding that when wards are closed staff will be redeployed where possible.

Meanwhile Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust plans to lose 1,916 positions by 2016, accounting for 23 per cent of its 2010 workforce.

In a statement, Central Manchester said it “doesn’t recognise the figures quoted about our organisation in the Royal College of Nursing’s Frontline First report and is unable to make any further comment”.

Responding to the Frontline First report, NHS Confederation deputy chief executive David Stout said the “major challenges” faced by the NHS meant it had to “get the maximum bang for buck on behalf of patients”. 

“Put bluntly, this means we have to take out fixed costs – beds and posts – to avoid going bust and to maintain or improve care,” he said.

Mr Stout added: “Given that about 70% of the NHS budget is spent on people, it is unrealistic to expect staff to be unaffected. The RCN is counting the number of job losses and automatically assuming that any job going is bad for patients. That is just is not the case. 

“Managing the financial challenge, while undergoing a huge structural reorganisation, is going to be tough. There is no doubt that many staff will find this personally very difficult.”


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Readers' comments (12)

  • Personally, I take no comfort in the fact that Mr. Lansley has no knowledge of the problem affecting existing staff (quote below) - It is clear he has 'no knowledge' of a great many things which - none the less - continue exist in the real world snf despite his lack of curiosity to discover the way things really are.

    "In addition, the report said the “downbanding” of posts was common, with leavers replaced by new staff at lower grades or current staff moved down a band. This is in spite of health secretary Andrew Lansley telling the Commons health select committee he had no knowledge of the problem affecting existing staff (news, page 2, 18 October)."

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  • It is more likely that Andrew Lansley just does not WANT to know than that he was not aware.
    Is this surprising? No. I can also confirm that there have been nursing posts disbanded where I work. However, there have been management posts CREATED and as far as I am aware, NO managerial posts have gone. We have just heard that after maternity leave part time nursing posts will not be accepted. Does this mean that people will be sacked for having a baby? Where are equal opps in that case? No doubt if they are sacked then the post will just be forgotten about.
    One post that is not being replaced is that of the ward discharge co-ordinator. We have hugely complex discharges from our ward and the post was essential in being able to co-ordinate all the people needed to apply for continuing care, send the 50 DSTand HNA pages off to the relevant panels ready to be assessed. Our ward has a huge turnover of trauma, quick investigations that all need discharge planning. We have a large number of palliative care and major surgical cases that impact on speech, communication, nutrition and airway alterations such as tracheostomy or laryngectomy. We are noting any bed days caused by delayed discharges due to the increased workload to see if this offsets the lack of dishcharge co-ordination. I personally worked until midnight one day to get a DST and HNA filled in. Don't accuse me of poor care, lack of communication or not being dedicated. I am sure that the MDT input was essential to getting the best possible placement for this patient but the admin is ridiculous and getting all the infomation togther for a 100 page referral is ridiculous without someone to co-ordinate it. This is only going to get worse as I suspect that this government is hoping for the NHS to founder so they can tender more services out to private companies. This is already going on throughout the NHS.. walk in centres, GP practices, diagnostics. Do we hear about those happening? No. Is that something else that Andrew Lansley knows nothing about? In this case only, I welcome phone and e-mail 'tapping' because I bet we would find some huge contradictions in what we are told and what is really happening or being planned! Perhaps we would get to know what else is stealthily being planned behind our backs?

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  • And what exactly has the RCN DONE about this? Absolutely nothing. They should be bloody ashamed of themselves. Any decent union, or professioanl body for that matter, would be up in arms about this, beating the government round the head with a copy of the latest report, not simply reiterating facts that we on the ground have known for a long, long time. Anonymous | 21-Nov-2011 11:48 am is absolutely right, it feels like we are being forced to fail so Lansley can have an excuse to replace the NHS with private companies!

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  • mike | 21-Nov-2011 1:49 pm

    Shut up you little Oink!!!!!!

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  • re-above

    is that you maggie thatcher!!!!!

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  • Anonymous | 21-Nov-2011 11:48 am

    Such a well painted picture of a day in the life of a Nurse. This should be sent straight to Andrew help fill in some of the gaps in his knowledge!

    mike | 21-Nov-2011 1:49 pm

    Completely agree with you, Mike. Eh, it looks like you may finally have had a reply from Peter Carter..........

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  • Anonymous | 21-Nov-2011 2:29 pm
    You might be right. But I think it might the inappropriate RCN Steward who was having a go at Mike and other Unison members in another thread.

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  • Mags haha, I doubt it's Carter, I don't think he'd commit to such a direct statement! ha! But whoiever it is, if that is the level of intelligent argument they can come up with, I think that just proves my point even more really.

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  • Lansley is setting the NHS up to fail - at least the current way the NHS provides care. The Torys believe fundamentally that the NHS should not provide care, just commission it from "any willing provider". It was there in their manifesto.

    Changing public opinion is the major challenge he faces. Milions of people receive excellent care from the NHS every year, but those media outlets closest to the Tory party simply will not publish good news stories - only the horror stories.

    When the public argument is won (as Lanlsey sees it) there will be a unstoppable supertanker that will (is) sailing the NHS into private hands. If the provision of care in the NHS fails, Lansley will see this as adding weight to his argument. He even planned to remove the Secretary of State from any legal responsibility for healthcare provision. A smart move when it comes to the time when failure upon failure has been highlighted: he can legitimately say ' wasn't my fault, mate'!

    By then he will tell you that Circle Health bought the right to manage a hospital and it was a huge success (of course it will be given every assistance to ensure it does not fail). THIS is the panacea for healthcare - look at how well it works in the USA (just don't mention that 60 million Americans can afford to access it).

    Moving the NHS to a commissioner of care will mean that no-one is joining the NHS pension scheme (as we will all be working for Acme Healthcare or equivalent). Which is why the govt is attacking a pension scheme that has paid hansomely into the exchequer year after year. If they get their way, they will have milked that cash-cow dry just at the point when we are moved to Acme's pension scheme.

    So yes, it is being set up to fail - it will help the Tory party to achieve their goal.

    It's just a shame the RCN seems to be watching it from the sidelines rather than doing anything about it.

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 23-Nov-2011 12:24 pm

    Well put, good explanation. I know instinctively that what is happening to the NHS is wrong and that reforming the NHS is completely different to what is happening - privatisation. I know that we are all be taken on a mysterious, blind folded ride and will ultimately end up having to pay for health care either independently or with private health care insurance. I feel very sad that our NHS is being destroyed by all these devious means & unrelenting propaganda and this lying government are not being open and honest in letting the public know what is happening, because if they did let them know there would be a huge outcry to save our NHS. Despite all the bad press regarding nursing etc., i still think the public would want to keep our NHS (with improvements made to bureaucratic/managerial waste etc.), but how can they make an informed choice when no one has told them in plain english what's going on behind their backs. Very sad times are coming upon us for the nations health as a whole for the future. Who will care for our young and old who need medical care if it is all about making a profit? As our GP said having returned fron voluntary work in a third world country 'we're all very lucky in this country', make that 'we were all very lucky'. I have nothing against those who wish to receive private healthcare but not at the cost of the NHS' fundamental principles being destroyed. Sick people without healthcare insurance and limited finances will be discriminated against or receive a second rate treatment or no treatment at all with a price tag attached and a 'can't afford it - too bad' attitude. Sad, sad times when we throw our humanity out the window and replace it with making a profit at any cost, when a life could be saved but is not financially viable.

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