Nurses and other frontline staff will “struggle” to recognise the picture of the NHS painted by a report on the government’s progress since taking office, according to the Royal College of Nursing.
Earlier this week the government published its mid-term review setting out the progress it claimed to have made on policies at the halfway point through the current parliament.
The government claimed it had “protected the NHS from spending cuts” and its reforms were “starting to deliver significant improvements in outcomes and productivity”.
The report said the overall number of clinical staff had increased by 2,642 and, in particular, the number of doctors in England had risen by 5,180.
It added: “We have improved the standard of care, particularly the treatment and care of people with dementia and other long-term conditions.”
The report cited examples such as MRSA and Clostridium difficile infections reaching their lowest levels since monitoring began and breaches of mixed sex accommodation rules having gone down by 98% since December 2010.
It also noted the setting up the Nursing and Care Quality Forum to advise on best practices in nursing care.
But Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said the reality was that demand for services was continuing to rise while staffing levels were being cut, which was resulting in a direct impact on patient care.
Referring to the college’s Frontline First campaign, which is tracking nursing job cuts, he said: “We know that since May 2010 more than 61,000 posts have either been lost or are set to go in the NHS in England and that more than 7,000 nursing posts have been axed.
“On a daily basis, nurses are telling us that they do not have enough staff to deliver good quality care,” he added.
The government report also reiterated its NHS policy pledges for the near future.
These included the introduction of a national nursing strategy “aimed at building a culture of compassionate care for nursing, midwifery and care staff”.
The strategy was published in December and is based around a set of nursing values known as the “Six Cs”.
In addition, it highlighted that £100m had been allocated to spend on technology for NHS nurses and midwives to “free up time for patient care and make essential patient details instantly available on the ward”.
The money will be loaned to trusts but those that perform well in the government’s new “friends and family” test of patient satisfaction will not have to repay it.