Health Secretary heckled after claiming NHS staffing levels have increased as nursing study reveals 61,000 frontline jobs to go
Jobs ‘at risk’ because of
spending cuts, according to Royal College of Nursing study
Community nurses among those facing the chop
A total of 26,000 jobs already gone in last two yearsLansley receives frosty reception at nursing conference

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UPDATED:

14:16 GMT, 14 May 2012

Nurses heckled and laughed at Health Secretary Andrew Lansley today after he claimed clinical staffing levels in the NHS had increased.

Mr Lansley was speaking in the wake of a Royal College of Nursing (RCN) study that warned more than 60,000 frontline jobs in the NHS, including those of nurses, were at risk because of spending cuts, with almost half already gone.

Andrew Lansley was laughed at after saying nurses should tell superiors if staffing levels were not safe

Difficult reception: Andrew Lansley was laughed at after saying nurses should tell superiors if staffing levels were not safe

He was laughed at by members of the audience at the RCN annual conference in Harrogate after saying nurses should tell superiors if staffing levels were not safe.

The reaction came when he told the conference in a question and answer session: 'If any of you have a view that staffing levels are literally not safe for patients I think part of your professional responsibility is to say that. Part of the responsibility of nursing directors and trust boards is to listen to what you are saying.'

And some in the crowd shouted “liar” after the Health Secretary claimed clinical staffing levels had increased on his watch.

He said: 'Across the whole of the NHS we have seen staffing levels reduce. But
clinical staffing levels overall have gone up by nearly 4,000.'

Later on Mr Lansley's claims were dismissed as 'nonsense' by RCN general secretary Peter Carter.

Speaking to journalists, he said: 'All this nonsense that there is more clinical staff now than there were a few years ago is simply not true.'

Heated exchange: Delegates cheer another delegate question the Health Secretary

Heated exchange: Delegates cheer another delegate question the Health Secretary

The comments follow new research by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) that claims that 26,000 jobs of staff working at the coalface have gone over the last two years with a further 35,000 set to go in the foreseeable future.

The union claims government attempts to shift the burden of responsibility in the NHS from hospitals to community nurses is ‘a facade’ and that patient care will ‘inevitably suffer’.

Ministers have refuted the scale of the job losses claiming that double the number of community nurses and health visitors will be trained this year compared to last, but Health Secretary Andrew Lansley faces an uncomfortable time when he hosts a Q & A session at the RCN conference in Harrogate later today.

Dr Peter Carter, General Secretary of
the RCN, said community nurses were facing the impossible challenge of
coping greater workloads with less resources.

He said: 'We are now seeing a clear and worrying picture of a health service which is struggling.

‘It
is struggling to keep people out of hospital because of pressures on
the community, and it is struggling to discharge them with support when
they leave. Very soon, patients will be left with nowhere to turn.

'This is a revolving door for patients, but it also represents a false economy at a time when there is no money to spare.'

Impact: A new study by the Royal College of Nursing claims that 26,000 jobs of staff working at the coalface have gone over the last two years with a further 35,000 set to go in the future

Impact: A new study by the Royal College of Nursing claims that 26,000 jobs of staff working at the coalface have gone over the last two years with a further 35,000 set to go in the future

The questionnaire of 2,600 community nurses also found
that only one in ten said they had enough time to meet patient needs
with nine out of ten reporting that their caseload had increased over
the last 12 months.

It also found that 21 per cent
said they saw patients being seen in
corridors at least once a day with almost half knowing of
patients who had faced long waits on trolleys in the past six months.

Dr Carter added: ‘We want care to be
delivered closer to home, and we want community nurses to be empowered
to keep their patients out of hospital, but at the moment this shift in
the way care is delivered is simply a facade, with the community
struggling to cope with the workload it has now, let alone the one it
faces in the future.’

'This
is a harsh reminder that both acute and community care are overloaded
and the staffing levels are so low in both that there can be nowhere for
patients to turn.'

Concerned: RCN general secretary Dr Peter Carter says the squeeze on healthcare resources will mean that 'very soon patients will be left with nowhere to turn'

Concerned: RCN general secretary Dr Peter Carter says the squeeze on healthcare resources will mean that 'very soon patients will be left with nowhere to turn'

The RCN said planned job cuts included more than 400 in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, a similar number in Sandwell and West Birmingham, 675 in Blackpool and a 23 per cent reduction in staffing numbers in South London up to 2015.

The Government was urged to take the 'stark' figures seriously.

However Health Minister Simon Burns
said he did not recognise the findings, claiming that official
statistics show there are currently only 450 fewer qualified nursing
staff in England than in September 2009 with the number of managers slashed by 15 per cent.

He
claims the ratio of nurses to beds in hospitals is going up and in
2011-12 more than 2,300 community nurses and health visitors will be
trained up.

He said: 'We are giving nurses in hospitals and in the community more time to care.

'We
want to remove excessive paperwork and bureaucracy and have asked the
Nursing and Care Quality Forum to find ways to free up nurses to spend
as much time as possible with patients.

'The Health and Social Care Act will make shifting care out of hospitals and closer to people’s homes simpler.

'No
one should stay in hospital longer than they need to and we are already
investing 300 million to help people return to their homes with the
support that they need more quickly after a spell in hospital.'

Conservative MP Simon Burns

NICK CLEGG GIVES HIS KEYNOTE SPEECH TO DELEGATES. LIBERAL DEMOCRAT SPRING CONFERENCE AT THE SAGE, GATESHEAD, TYNE AND WEAR

Dismissal: Both Health Minister Simon Burns (left) and Deputy Prime
Minister have refuted the job loss figures put forward by the RCN. They say
twice as many community nurses and health visitors will be trained up
this year compared to last.

A spokeswoman for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals also refuted the RCN's specific claims about job losses at its trust saying. A spokesman said although 300 jobs went last year, there no cuts to nursing staff and none were planned for the upcoming year.

She said: 'Providing safe and quality care to our patients is our key priority and we have actually recruited an additional 100 nurses over the past six months and are still actively recruiting more nurses this year.'

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg denied that the NHS was about to 'break' and said the Government did not 'recognise' the figures produced by the RCN.

Speaking on ITV's Daybreak he said: 'We actually think the numbers are relatively stable.'

'This year we are training about double the number of community nurses and health visitors than we did last year.'

He said: 'Unlike other public services, we protected the spending on the NHS and increased it year on year on year. That shows our commitment to the NHS.'