16 January 2013
Frontline First - England
The RCN acknowledges that there are tough times ahead for the NHS in England but believes that frontline health services must be protected.
We welcome the commitment given by the Government to increase funding for the NHS in England in ‘real terms’ over the coming years, although this is unlikely to be enough to keep pace with demand for services and cost pressures. In reality the NHS will have to increase its productivity and deliver more for less.
We have already been told that the new government will seek to follow the path set by their predecessors in finding £20bn of efficiency savings in England alone. Mr. Lansley has also said that, if necessary, the new government may well go further in saving more money. When £20bn represents one in every five pounds currently spent on the NHS, this news concerns many working in the service.
It is right that spending is closely examined but more details are needed about the cuts to be made and there is also a need for honest discussions as huge savings required will not achieved by efficiency savings alone. In this tough financial climate, Trusts in England will have to make even more difficult decisions about what it will, and will not offer.
The RCN has always said it will speak up when we disagree with the Government and be vocal in our support when they get things right. We look forward to a constructive working relationship that puts the wellbeing of patients at the forefront and highlights nursing as part of the solution for the challenges facing the NHS.
The RCN is closely monitoring the effects of the measures being taken across the NHS to help meet the efficiency savings required and will identify trends that directly impact on the quality of care being delivered.
Nurses recognise that there are savings that the NHS could make and ways it could work differently to make funding go even further but delivering high quality patient care simply has to remain the number one priority. The long-term improvement and stability of the NHS in England should not be sacrificed in the drive to secure short-term delivery efficiency savings.
Nursing staff need to be empowered to innovate to deliver fresh thinking on how efficiencies can be made while protecting patient care.
Staffing levels across the health sector, from acute hospitals to services in the community, remain a significant priority for the NHS as it enters a period of economic uncertainty. Short staffing reduces quality of care but also puts at risk some of the nursing ‘basics’ such as care, compassion and communication – the very things that patients value most.