‘Immediate action’ needed to boost nursing numbers, says RCN

13 Apr 15

The Royal College of Nursing has warned the next government must take ‘immediate action’ to increase the number of nurses in the NHS or risk falling standards of care.

In its Fragile frontline report, published yesterday, the RCN said there were fewer nurses now than in 2010 once midwives, health visitors and school nurses were excluded from the figures.

While the government claimed the number of nursing posts had increased, RCN said that the headcount figure had fallen from 317,370 in May 2010 to 315,525 in December 2014, a decline of 1,845 posts.

RCN said a ‘significant contributing factor’ to the shortage of nurses in England were the cuts the government made to student nursing commissions in 2010, which had led to a fall of 3,375 places.

As it takes three years for student nurses to qualify, the college said the reduction in training places was now hitting the supply of nurses.

RCN general secretary Peter Carter said he had warned that cutting the workforce numbers as part of a drive to find efficiency savings was the wrong course of action.

‘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,’ he said.

‘While the health service has spent the last five years running on the spot, demand has continued to increase.

‘Whoever forms the next Government must learn from this report and take immediate action to grow the nursing workforce, and ensure it can keep up with demand with a sustainable and long-term plan.’

The report also highlighted that the number of community nurses had fallen by over 3,300 since 2010, despite NHS plans to move care from hospitals to the community, the report said.

It also warned that, as the nursing workforce was ageing, action was also needed to address the natural decline in numbers that would result as more people retired.

  • Judith Ugwumadu

    Judith Ugwumadu joined Public Finance International and Public Finance online as a reporter after stints at Financial Adviser, Global Security Finance and The Sunday Express. Currently, she writes about public finance, public services and economics.

    Follow her on @JudithUgwumadu_

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