The Royal College of Nursing has warned that the NHS is heading for crisis point with 56,058 NHS positions across the UK due to be cut.
In England, the pace of post cuts has risen by more than 50 per cent with 48,029 NHS posts set to be cut or already lost since the RCN began tracking post losses in April 2010. Just seven months ago, the figure was 30,873.
An RCN analysis of 41 trusts in England revealed that clinical posts make up almost half of the total workforce cuts with nursing posts accounting for more than a third of the posts earmarked to be cut.
RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dr Peter Carter described the new figures as ‘deeply worrying’.
He said yesterday: ‘Cutting staff numbers by up to a quarter and axing a third of nursing posts will undoubtedly have a deep and potentially dangerous impact on patient care.
‘There is clear evidence that the quality of care and patient safety is improved when you have the right numbers and skills in place on wards.
‘Staffing levels should be based on rigorous clinical evidence and should not be arbitrarily lowered in a short-sighted effort to save money.
‘We are currently working with peers to table amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill to ensure mandatory safe staffing levels.’
The RCN report has also uncovered a number of trends including downbanding – when registered nurses are replaced with nurses of a lower band or unregistered nursing assistants; cuts to preventative services, to the community sector, and to mental health services.
In addition, many NHS organisations are now attempting to move away from nationally agreed pay and conditions in attempts to meet their savings targets.
BMA Council member Anna Athow commented: ‘Peter Carter is right to be worried about the acceleration of loss of nurses’ posts and that of midwives and doctors and other NHS staff in the last 18 months.
‘He is also right to flag up the pernicious practice of sacking nurses who are highly qualified for their posts and diverting them into posts on a lower band to save money.
‘These attacks are a direct result of the £20bn QIPP cuts (Quality Innovation Prevention and Productivity) launched by the Department of Health as advised by McKinsey’s in 2009.
‘The aim of these cuts is to massively increase exploitation, cut staff, close wards and NHS capacity, in order to carry out “service reconfiguration”.
‘Every penny saved is being channelled back into private treatment centres and “care in the community” and private management deals like the recent £1bn, 10 year, Circle take-over of Hinchingbrooke hospital, in line with the Health and Social Care Bill.
‘The coalition government has declared war on the NHS and is determined to wreck its workforce and physically destroy its infrastructure.
‘It is about time that the RCN, the BMA and all the other health unions got together and organised joint action to stop these job losses and fight to keep open and in public hands, every NHS unit.
‘This should be linked with the pensions issues on 30th November and in a common fight with other unions, the demand to remove this government.’