The Royal College of Nursing has exposed the myth that NHS frontline care and services are protected, and says cuts will lead to ‘fewer services, fewer nurses and a worse NHS’.
As members gather in Liverpool for the RCN’s annual Congress, the College warned cutting frontline posts could have ‘catastrophic consequences on patient safety and care’.
Evidence from 21 NHS trusts in England showed 54 per cent of nearly 10,000 posts due to be cut are frontline clinical posts. The RCN also found that nursing posts account for 46 per cent of identified workforce cuts.
The findings will put pressure on the Government to say how patient services will be protected, as trusts in England alone aim to save £20 billion by 2015.
Dr Peter Carter, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, said clinical staff were the ‘lifeblood of the NHS’ but were haemorrhaging at an alarming rate.
He said: “Many trusts are not being transparent by admitting to the proportion of clinical jobs being lost. From our research we now know the truth – the majority of job losses are frontline clinical jobs, the jobs that matter to patients.
“Cutting thousands of frontline doctors and nurses could have a catastrophic impact on patient safety and care. Our figures expose the myth that frontline staff and services are protected.”
The RCN’s Frontline First campaign has identified almost 40,000 NHS posts facing the axe over the next three years. While the RCN looked in detail at 21 trusts, it also studied intelligence from 130 NHS organisations in England.
Additionally, services that help keep patients out of hospital, save money and decrease the NHS’s burden are being closed. These include intermediate care for patients who have been discharged, a residential detoxifcation and treatment unit, and family nurse partnerships and community falls services.
Dr Carter added that patients are not getting the same care as they did a year ago.
He said: ‘We know savings need to be made but cutting frontline staff and services is not the way to do it. While we are in an interim phase with new structures taking place we are seeing many patient services which we fear may simply disappear forever.”