Failure To Invest Will Mean Disaster For NHS, Says RCN!

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Nurses demonstrating for 15% pay increase in April at St Thomas' Hospital, London

‘FAILURE to invest more now to tackle the nursing workforce crisis will mean disaster for the health and care services this winter,’ the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned yesterday.

The nurses’ union urged Tory Chancellor Sunak to ‘pull health and care back from the brink by announcing more funding’.

The nurses’ union’s bleak message continued: ‘The funding announced by the government for pandemic recovery is woefully inadequate and the Chancellor must announce extra funding for the longer term in his Budget.’

Last month, PM Johnson announced an extra £5.4bn in funding and a National Insurance rise to help tackle the record levels of people waiting for treatment in England, with £2.2bn also set aside for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But ahead of Wednesday’s Budget, the RCN said the government has yet to get to grips with the scale of the backlog and is calling for Chancellor Sunak to announce a cash boost.

In its written submission to the government earlier this month, the RCN said that recovery from the pandemic will be ‘impossible without a specific commitment to funding and action to address staffing shortages in the health and care workforce’.

It warned: ‘The level of registered nursing vacancies in the UK stood at around 50,000 when the pandemic began.

‘That number in England recently rose back to pre-pandemic levels to around 40,000.

‘Nursing staff are facing a knife-edge winter with Covid-19 cases rising sharply, the backlog and seasonal pressures putting them under huge pressure.

‘They are already exhausted and feeling undervalued after 18 months of the pandemic.’

Last week, the RCN joined a clamour of angry voices refuting the Tory government’s suggestion that the pressure the NHS is already under was ‘sustainable’.

Pat Cullen, RCN general secretary, said: ‘Nursing staff are furious at the way the government has tried to downplay the critical situation our health and care services are already in.

‘The Chancellor has a chance this week to repair some of the damage by announcing the both long- and short-term investment in his Budget. It’s up to the government to do the right thing.’

Carol Popplestone, RCN Council Chair, said: ‘Nursing is a safety-critical profession and with tens of thousands of vacancies there simply isn’t the workforce to ensure people can deliver safe care for patients.

‘The pressure services are under is already unsustainable and heading in one clear direction. The Chancellor has a chance to lead and pull both patients and professionals back from the brink of disaster.’

The RCN’s 465,000 members are currently involved in an ‘indicative ballot’ asking them if they are prepared to take strike action to secure a 12.5% pay rise. It is widely expected that the result will be an overwhelming ‘YES’ vote.