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Think frontline staff will be spared? Look what’s happening to my nursing unit

Location: UK » South West » BS
Think frontline staff will be spared? Look what’s happening to my nursing unit

Yesterday I was compelled to attend a meeting at which the senior medical practitioners in my directorate – consultants, registrars, specialist and senior nurses – were to have our NHS Trust’s financial position clarified for us.

The conclusion of the meeting left many in the room stunned. Not least because throughout the meeting the word ‘patient’ was not mentioned in any context by the financial director or the Trust chief executive (a former nurse).

In the health and social care bill (not yet passed through parliament but already being acted on) all hospitals are required to become or be part of a Foundation Trust by April 2014. in order to achieve this, financial balance is essential – if not the hospital will be allowed to fail and be subject to takeover or possibly dismantling.

Our Trust has a historical deficit and needs to set aside 6% of the annual budget in order to pay back the money borrowed for a PFI-funded new build. On top of this, because Government funding has reduced in real terms (not what they would have you believe), a further 21% savings need to be found from the annual budget. A stunning total of 27% savings on the annual budget.

So how are we going to save all of this money?

I am the ward manager of a unit comprising 2 wards which are separated by a sitting area. We care for patients with complex needs who have acute illness as well as chronic conditions. It is an unpredictable environment where the patients’ conditions can change rapidly, and knowledgeable, skilled nursing is essential.

We have been identified as an area where nursing cuts can be made. The unit is now seen as 1 area rather than 2 separate wards (male and female), and therefore our nursing establishment reduced accordingly. On some shifts there will only be 2 members of staff.

I am committed to providing the highest quality care in my area and believe I run an excellent unit with dedicated and professional staff who really care about the patients. We never let patients go hungry, they are attended to when wet or soiled, strategies are in place to minimise the risk of falls, Patients don’t get pressure sores, we haven’t had MRSA or C-diff on the ward for over 3 years and we get really positive feedback from our patients.

This has the potential to change dramatically when, in a couple of weeks, the number of staff on the ward to provide the care is reduced.

We are told to be more productive, lean and efficient to compensate for the cuts but productivity doesn’t feed patients who can’t manage to feed themselves, lean doesn’t make sure bed bound patients are repositioned regularly to reduce the risk of pressure sores, and efficiency doesn’t stop the confused patient falling. Nurses do – when there’s enough of them.

Don’t be fooled that the government will not cut frontline staff, it is already happening in numerous hospitals throughout the country or that they have quality and patient choice as the focus of changes to the NHS. The patient, in reality, is barely mentioned. This is about money and ideology and if the current changes, for which they have no mandate, continue, the NHS as we know it will be on it’s knees: a poor quality, understaffed relic with hospitals unable to compete in the increasing market place.

David Cameron said that the ‘NHS is safe in our hands’. How can we trust a single word he says? And who will suffer most?


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