Hospital cutbacks 'have left one nurse to every 18 patients': Front-line health staff put Health Secretary on the spot
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
23:55 GMT, 14 May 2012
Nurses have told the Health Secretary they are routinely being left alone on wards caring for up to 18 patients at a time.
They also warned Andrew Lansley that cost-cutting hospitals are now replacing senior nurses with cheap, untrained healthcare assistants.
The head of the Royal College of Nursing told Mr Lansley there was ‘a great deal of unhappiness in the NHS’ with many staff ‘at the end of their tether’.
Difficult reception: Andrew Lansley was laughed at after saying nurses should tell superiors if staffing levels were not safe
Heated exchange: Delegates cheer another delegate question the Health Secretary
Dr Peter Carter, general secretary of
the RCN, said it was ‘nonsense’ for the Government to try to claim the
number of frontline NHS staff was increasing, when thousands of nurses
have been axed since they came to power.
Figures revealed by the RCN yesterday ahead of their annual conference
in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, showed that a total of 3,588 nursing and
midwifery posts had been lost since March 2010.
The Government initially disputed these figures and pointed out that the
number of clinical posts – which include doctors and scientists, as
well as nurses – had gone up.
But yesterday during a speech to the conference Mr Lansley conceded that
there were indeed fewer nurses, although he insisted they could still
provide the same standard of care for patients.
Feeling the pressure: Mr Lansley looked uncomfortable as he faced a hostile question and answer session at the RCN annual meeting
He was repeatedly jeered and heckled as he attempted to allay concerns
over the cuts to the NHS and his controversial health bill.
One ward sister stood up and told Mr Lansley that nurses were routinely
having to look after 18 patients at a time, many of whom were elderly.
Rachel Armstrong, from the RCN’s Liverpool and Knowsley branch, said:
‘This is happening across the country. The system has very little
‘The patients have acute needs, many are elderly patients.
‘If you don’t have enough staff, the care for patients will suffer – there is only so much you can do.’
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
Earlier this year a separate report by the RCN found that nurses were so
busy that three in four did not have enough time to even talk to
The average nurse looks after between six and seven patients at a time.
Often nurses do not have the time to help every patient eat their meals
or answer call bells as they are too busy prioritising those with the
most urgent needs.
Another nurse, Barbara Jane Waltho, from the East Dorset branch, said
the NHS was now ‘on the critical list’. Addressing the Health Secretary,
she said: ‘You said the NHS would not deteriorate on your watch.
‘Would you concede that the NHS has not been as well cared for on your watch as you promised’
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.
Others revealed that senior nurses with decades of experience were now
being replaced by healthcare assistants with no medical qualifications.
Although the NHS’s budget has not been cut, it has been ordered to save
20billion over the next three years and provide care more efficiently.
Ministers want hospitals and health trusts to cut unnecessary bureaucracy and set aside money for reinvestment later.
But many NHS trusts have resorted to slashing staffing levels and restricting treatments to meet targets.
Dr Carter later accused the Government of running the NHS ‘unintelligently’.
In a speech after the Health Secretary had left, he said nurses were
becoming ‘increasingly fed up, disaffected and at the end of their
WHAT NEXT FOR THE NHS AFTER LANSLEY'S SPEECH
Over the past two years the Royal College of Nursing has repeatedly issued dire warnings that thousands of nursing posts are facing the axe.
Ministers have always denied these claims, consistently stating they ‘do not recognise’ the RCN’s figures.
Yesterday the union issued yet another report with figures showing that since March 2010, two months before the Coalition was formed, a total of 3,588 nursing and midwifery posts have gone.
Again, the Government denied these claims and said initially said that there were actually only 450 fewer nursing posts.
They pointed out that the overall number of clinical roles – which include doctors, scientists, radiologists as well as nurses – had increased.
But the NHS’s own figures show that the RCN are right – there were 311,787 nursing posts in March 2010 compared with just 308,199 now.
And yesterday for the first time Health Secretary Andrew Lansley conceded that the NHS had lost ‘about’ 3,500 nurses.
The Government are correct to state that the clinical posts have gone up, though – there are 3,556 more compared with two years ago.
Many of these include scientists, radiologists who carry out x-rays and sonographers who perform ultrasounds, as well as doctors.
While the RCN acknowledge these roles are valuable, they say that trying to save money by cutting nursing posts is ‘unintelligent’ – and will inevitably harm patient care.