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News - 14 May 2012

Nurses fear massive job losses

A study by The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that community nurses were among 61,000 posts at risk because of health reforms. The loss of so many jobs showed the "weakness" of Government pledges to protect the front line, said the RCN ahead of its annual conference in Harrogate.

The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, got a “dignified” reception when addressing the meeting, but at the end, RCN leader Peter Carter said nurses were still unhappy.

The RCN released a report suggesting patients were having to be treated in corridors and left waiting for hours on trolleys because of the pressures they were facing.

The Health Secretary replied that while nurse numbers had fallen, the number of doctors employed had actually increased by more, and that the successes, such as waiting times and hospital infections remained low and access to NHS dentistry was on the rise, should be celebrated.

He insisted that health care would not be compromised by moves to make savings.
However, the RCN said community services covering district and mental health nurses and those who visit patients in their own homes were being "overburdened".

Fewer than one in 10 of 2,600 community nurses polled by the RCN said they had enough time to meet the needs of their patients, while nine out of 10 revealed their caseload had increased in the past year.

Health Minister Simon Burns said the number of nurses to beds in hospitals is going up and in 2011-12, more than 2,300 community nurses and health visitors would be trained - double the previous year's figure.

The overwhelming feeling among nurses at the RCN conference in Harrogate is one of anger resulting in the raising of four major issues:

  • Cuts to pay and pensions,
  • Pressure on front-line services
  • Reforms many say are unwanted.

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