Reverse NHS funding cuts! – RCN responds to new health report

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Student nurses marching in London last month shouting ‘Hand off our bursaries!’ – the RCN calls for all the cuts to be halted
Student nurses marching in London last month shouting ‘Hand off our bursaries!’ – the RCN calls for all the cuts to be halted

‘YEARS of squeezing more and more out of an overstretched workforce has left the NHS in a perilous position,’ the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) warned yesterday.

The nurses union was responding to the House of Commons Health Committee Spending Review Report published today on the impact spending cuts have had on patients, NHS staff and the health care system as a whole.

In a damning statement the committee states: ‘The gvernment’s Spending Review does not meet its commitment to fund the NHS’s vision for the future of the service.’ Committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston MP said: ‘Cutting public health is a false economy, creating avoidable additional costs in the future.

‘Similarly, the cuts to health education come at a time when the workforce shortfall is already placing a significant strain on services and driving higher agency costs. ‘Training and developing the current and future NHS workforce must be a key priority for the NHS and we are deeply concerned about the effect of cuts to training budgets.’

Janet Davies, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary said: ‘The ongoing pay freeze is having a severe effect on nurses’ morale and agency spending bills will continue to spiral without clear action on the recruitment and retention of staff.

‘The Health Committee has delivered a sobering assessment of last year’s Spending Review and it’s wide ranging. Cutting funding for public health was never going to be anything other than a false economy and it’s encouraging to see the Health Committee stress the negative impact of these cuts, both now and in the future. The Committee is right to recognise the need to properly value and pay the NHS’s workforce.’

The government had proposed removing the grant for student nurses and midwives and replacing it with a loan which would force students to either drop out or face a lifetime of debt. On this issue, Davies said: ‘It’s also good to see the Committee listening to our evidence on proposed changes to student nurse funding.

‘The RCN calls on the government to halt this untested gamble as anything that deters people from becoming nurses would be a big loss to our society. Unless the government finally gets to grips with the tremendous financial pressures facing the NHS, then no initiative or plan will ever fully get off the ground and the NHS will lurch from crisis to crisis.

‘A new government is a chance for a fresh approach, and nowhere is this more needed than the health service. Years of squeezing more and more out of an overstretched workforce has left the NHS in a perilous position. Long term, sustained investment is the only way to ensure our health and care system can cope with the challenges ahead.’