In a pre-election report, the Royal College of Nursing says that the he fragile frontline also highlights other areas which the next Government must address as a matter of urgency.
The community nursing workforce has been cut by over 3,300, despite NHS plans to move care from hospitals to the community. And the recent increases to student nursing places are not enough to make up for previous cuts, increasing demands on an ageing workforce.
The report also reveals that last year over 30,000 potential nursing students were turned away as over 50,000 people applied for just 21,205 places. Yet figures from UCAS show that there is no shortage of potential nurses to increase the workforce. This is a matter of political decision and funding.
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN said:
“We warned that cutting the workforce numbers to fund the NHS reorganisation and to find the efficiency savings was the wrong course to take.
“The cuts were so severe that we are only just catching up with where we were five years ago. Many areas, like district nursing and mental health, are even worse off."
This is a crisis of the governments making. Five years ago the NHS was in a relatively healthy state with funding having increased on average by 5.7 per cent in real terms. Now the NHS is almost bankrupt 50% of hospital Trusts running deficits. This is the tragedy.
The Coalition set out with the promise of ring-fenced funding for the NHS. That pledge was broken. Mr Cameron said there would be 'no top down reorganisation of the NHS. That pledge was broken. Now Tory pledges on the NHS are predicated on a further £22 billion of efficiency savings.
The NHS crisis is one of the government's making. With savage cuts in social care the demand on the NHS has increased.
“Unlike many problems facing the health service, the solution to the nursing workforce is very simple, and is a matter of political will. With more people wanting to nurse than ever, the next Government has the power to increase training places and expand the supply of nurses. If it does not, it will be failing a generation of patients.
“As the election approaches there will be a lot of promises, and many will be forgotten. But the next Government can rest assured that it will be judged in five years’ time on whether we have a properly funded health service which is fit for the 21st Century.”