‘Worrying’ shortage of senior NHS nurses
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that patient care is being put at risk as the NHS has lost nearly 4,000 senior nursing posts since 2010. The void includes ward sisters, community matrons and specialist nurses and has been brought about by cost saving reorganisation, it says.
The NHS is in the middle of a tough drive to save £20bn by 2015 and the government has claimed this can be achieved through efficiency savings without harming the frontline.
The public inquiry report into Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust by Robert Francis QC, highlighted the importance of having the right staffing numbers and skill mix on wards. The Department of Health says it is putting more nurses on wards. They say that an extra 2,400 hospital nurses have been hired since the Francis report, with over 3,300 more nurses working on NHS hospital wards and 6,000 more clinical staff overall since May 2010.
However, according to the most recent data, in November 2013, the NHS was still short of 1,199 full time equivalent (FTE) registered nurses compared with April 2010. The RCN says that hidden within wider nursing workforce cuts are a significant loss and devaluation of skills and experience in the NHS, with 3,994 FTE nursing staff working in senior positions.
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: “As more patients require complex care from specialist nurses, letting so many years of skills and experience vanish from the NHS is an utterly reckless policy.”
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said:
“We know clinical leadership by healthcare professionals matters – that’s why we’re investing £40m in leadership training for ward sisters, senior nurses and midwives to create a new generation of leaders in our nursing workforce.”