The Royal College of Nursing has sent a strong, clear message to the coalition Government this week over its plans to reform the NHS. Not only are nursing jobs likely to be lost, the RCN say nursing staff are already being asked to work beyond their salaried hours and through lunchbreaks to plug the gaps in other healthcare sectors where cuts have been made, and there is a fear the problem will become more acute once new policy has been agreed.
“We are seeing not just nurses, but cleaners, doctors and speech therapists’ posts being cut,” said Peter Carter, leader of the RCN. Pushing more work onto nurses is leading to concerns around a serious decline in the mental and physical wellbeing of nursing staff, which will, in turn, affect patient care.
According to Department of Health figures, funding for the NHS is being increased by nearly £12m in 2011. However, critics argue that these regular incremental rises are only designed to cover routine shifts in patient demand, new drugs and more modern, expensive treatments, and the net effect of NHS reform will be a degradation in the standard of treatment patients receive.
The RCN’s annual conference co-incides with the Government’s ‘pause for thought’ over NHS reforms, a strategy which has been widely criticised by patients and staff. The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, is due to meet key RCN members after the conference. With the reform bill already progressing through Parliament, it is not known how comprehensive any revisions to the bill will be as a result of the consultation.