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Cath Everett

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Over 20, 000 clinical NHS jobs to be cut


More than half of the 40,000 NHS jobs facing the axe over the next three years will be clinical posts, even though a majority of nurses are already struggling to cope due to inadequate staffing levels.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, warned at the nursing union’s annual Congress yesterday that clinical staff were currently “haemorrhaging at an alarming rate”, but that Trusts were not being “transparent” about the number of frontline jobs being lost.
According to research undertaken by the RCN among a sample of 21 English Trusts, which are attempting to hit coalition government targets of saving £20 billion by 2015, nearly 10,000 posts are due to be cut by 2014, 54% of which will be clinical.
For example, Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust will lose 300 nursing jobs as part of a £60 million cost-cutting exercise, while Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust aims to reduce its nursing, midwifery and health visitor numbers by 15% or 264 posts by 2015.
Some Trusts are also trying to cut costs by employing cheaper, unregulated staff such as healthcare assistants in order to replace qualified personnel, while others are closing or decommissioning whole areas of patient services.
NHS Oldham, for example, is shutting the Shawside Recovery Unit, which provides intermediate care for patients discharged from hospital, while NHS Stockport is disbanding its Family Nurse Partnerships and Community Falls Services.
But this situation represented only the tip of the iceberg, Carter warned, as the RCN had identified almost 40,000 posts in the 130 NHS bodies across England that faced the axe over the next three years.
“Cutting thousands of frontline doctors and nurses could have a catastrophic impact on patient safety and care. Our figures expose the myth that frontline staff and services are protected,” he said.
To make matters worse, further research among 2,000 nurses undertaken by pollster ICM on behalf of the RCN revealed that a mere 17% of nurses felt staffing levels were currently good where they worked.
A huge 95% already worked beyond their contracted hours, with 22% doing so every shift, while a quarter provided last minute cover for absentee staff at least fortnightly.
Just under two out of five respondents missed meal times at least three times a week, while 23% never took the breaks to which they were entitled. About a third could not even get a drink a water as frequently as they needed to and one in five had spent a week or more at work despite feeling too ill to attend.
As a result, Carter called for NHS managers to prioritise efforts to ensure that staff did not burn out under pressure of work, citing the Boorman Review of Health and Wellbeing, which indicated that the NHS could save more than half a billion pounds by improving the health of its staff.


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