2.2 billion euros saved should be spent on nurses

Mark Nicholls reports from the UK

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) wants the Department of Health to spend a forecasted surplus of around 2.2 billion euros on the 2008/09 National Health Service (NHS) budget on nurse recruitment and training and to support the transition from acute to community-based care under health minister Lord Darzi's reform of the NHS.

Howard Catton
Howard Catton

The surplus is predicted to be around 2% of the overall NHS budget for England. In 2007/08, the NHS in England recorded a surplus of £1.658bn, following a deficit of £547m in 2006/07.
Howard Catton, the RCN’s head of Policy Development and Implementation said that when the NHS was facing a serious deficit two years ago, the RCN feared nursing posts were targeted to address any financial shortfalls within the country’s health Trusts: ‘We felt those cuts were a short-term solution to balance the books, and short-sighted. But now we have moved on from the situation and are heading for a surplus, we should consider allocating more of that money to patient care. It is not just about the actual staff that support those services, and we are not saying spend all of that surplus on more nurses, but we believe that unless we have the necessary staff we are not going to be able to deliver those services.’
The RCN wants the Department of Health to address any nursing cutbacks from the last 2–3 years, restore budgets and finance the transition from acute to community-based staff. ‘Managing the changes under the Darzi review from acute to community care is a huge endeavour and funds need to be spent on supporting that transition and on nurse numbers, specifically. I think there is probably also a need to increase the number of nurses we are training. London will need another 4,000 nurses over the next decade.’ Earlier in the year the RCN conducted a survey among specialist and experienced nurses. It found that 45% had worked outside their specialist area to cover staff shortages and 68% were seeing more patients than when they first began in the role, though the RCN now believes that situation among specialist nurses in the NHS is improving.


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