New figures from the college reveal a bleak picture. Specialist nurses remain fearful of redundancies and vacancy freezes.
The RCN surveyed 328 specialist nurses across the UK – half of whom were band 7 – in an attempt to uncover the current situation facing them.
More than 30% confirmed there was currently a vacancy freeze in place within their trust and 20% felt they were at risk of redundancy.
The figures also show 23% of specialist nurses had been at risk of redundancy during their career, with the biggest threat in 2007 when 43% felt they had been likely to lose their jobs.
Additionally, the findings reveal a worrying trend in the downgrading of specialist roles, with 35% of staff at risk from downgrading or re-banding – both now and in previous years – with over 11% already downgraded or re-banded.
Nearly half said they had been forced to work outside their role, with 31% saying they were having to plug staff shortages. Alarmingly, 43% of those surveyed said they were only sometimes able to offer patients a high standard of care.
Howard Catton, RCN head of policy, said that, despite the NHS no longer being in deficit, managers still appeared to be targeting specialist
posts when attempting to make cuts.
‘We are disappointed with the findings but it goes beyond that,’ Mr Catton said. He cited expectations that the forthcoming Lord Darzi review would recommend care was brought to patients in their own homes, which would mean a key role for specialist nurses.
‘The NHS needs these staff – they are gold dust,’ he said. If they are cut back that will prove a serious impediment to the delivery of policy
and it will also be very difficult for future recruitment and retention.’