More mental health jobs to go under coalition cutbacks

Royal College of Nursing warns patients' care will suffer

By Ian Birch

The Royal College of Nursing has warned today that 1 in 20 nurses expect to be made redundant over the next year, because of coalition cutbacks, including many working for mental health trusts.

Psychiatrist nurse talking to female patientThe RCN’s employment survey shows that around 15,000 nurses and health care assistants in the NHS expect to lose their jobs, with a further seven per cent expecting to be downgraded and six per cent working reduced hours. The RCN says this survey shows that frontline services are not being protected.

Through its Frontline First campaign, the RCN has already identified 40,000 NHS posts that are earmarked to be lost, while an independent report commissioned by the RCN earlier this summer warned that the NHS in England could lose nearly 100,000 nurses over the next 10 years, with what the RCN says are potentially disastrous consequences for patient care.

The hardest-hit mental health services around the UK include:

  • West Midlands: Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation NHS Trust made 155 staff redundant, discontinuing the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme
  • South East: Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is planning to close 4 wards with the loss of 75 jobs
  • North West: Lancashire Care NHS Foundation trust closed 2 adult mental health wards (36 beds) at the Avondale Unit in Preston, and Harvey House, a 16-bed residential alcohol detox unit

The RCN does not give any data specifically for mental health care in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland but a mixed picture of cuts with occasional increases in staffing across the NHS.

RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary Dr Peter Carter says:

“We know the Government wants to protect services but nurses are wilting under the strain of longer working hours, taking on the burden of unfilled vacancies and reduced staffing levels. All these short-term measures are likely to leave patient with longer waiting times, poor care and a worse NHS. It is absolutely critical that trusts make sure they have the right numbers and balance of staff to deal with this.”

RCN members says that  the cuts that are taking place are having an impact on patient care, with more than half too busy to provide the level of care they would like and nearly a third are reporting the quality of care decreasing. The RCN is now calling for guaranteed safe staffing levels and will be tabling an amendment on this issue as the Health and Social Care Bill progresses through the House of Lords.

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