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The Royal College of Nursing: NHS is 'sleepwalking into a crisis'

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that the NHS is "sleepwalking into a crisis" Photo: Reuters

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that the NHS is "sleepwalking into a crisis", saying that huge staff reductions come as there is a soaring demand for care.

The ageing population and the increasing number of people living with long-term conditions mean that demand for services continues to rise.

The organisation is calling on ministers to prevent NHS trusts from "continuing with this damaging agenda of cuts" that "impact on patient care".

The RCN believes that the NHS is sleepwalking into a nursing crisis in England that is drawing closer as the size of the cuts increase.

If the Government continues on its current path it will find itself stranded in a perfect storm of an ageing population with increasing healthcare demands, but without the adequate nursing workforce to deal with it.

– Report for the RCN's Frontline First campaign
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that the NHS is "sleepwalking into a crisis"

According to the RCN:

  • More than 30,000 NHS jobs are at risk of being cut
  • Since the coalition came to power in May 2010, the NHS workforce in England has decreased by 28,500 posts
  • A further 32,700 jobs are at risk
  • Between May 2010 and July this year, the number of qualified nurses working for the health service reduced by more than 6,000

While NHS trusts locally make the decisions about staffing levels, the RCN said there is a lack of national oversight about the reduction in staff numbers.

The organisation is calling on ministers to prevent NHS trusts from "continuing with this damaging agenda of cuts" that "impact on patient care".

The cumulative effect of those local decisions means that we are heading towards a crisis as far as the supply of nursing is concerned which will have an impact on patient care.

There has to be national oversight to make sure that we are getting the right numbers of healthcare professionals across the system.

Getting the nursing numbers right is fundamental, it's core.

If attention isn't paid to this warning from us we are very, very concerned about what the impact on care will be.

– HOWARD CATTON, RCN HEAD OF POLICY

Labour have joined the calls from the RCN:

Whilst David Cameron wastes billions on back-office restructuring, the front-line of the NHS is taking a battering. Ambulances are once again queuing up outside A&Es across England. In many hospitals there are simply not enough qualified nurses on the ground and healthcare assistants are increasingly being used to cover nurses’ roles.

Since David Cameron walked through the door of 10 Downing Street, over six thousand nursing posts have been lost. At the same time, he has spent £1 billion on redundancy packages for managers. Six-figure pay-outs to managers; P45s to nurses – what clearer illustration could there be of a Government with its priorities completely wrong?

– Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Health Secretary