The Health Secretary has directly contradicted claims made by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) that concerns have repeatedly been raised to him concerning the down-grading of nurses.
In a fiery exchange in the House of Commons on Wednesday (26 September), where Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham blasted Andrew Lansley's "pious tone", doubts were raised over Lansley's comments made in a meeting before the Health Select Committee on 11 October.
When Rosie Cooper, a Labour MP for West Lancashire and a member of the committee, probed Lansley on the subject of hospitals down-banding nursing posts in a bid to cut costs, he denied all knowledge of the practice.
Yet, the very next day Janet Davies, Executive Director of Nursing and Service Delivery for the RCN, spoke out, claiming Lansley was aware of down-banding practices.
Burnham read Davies' quote aloud to the House of Commons, and accused Lansley of "outright denial".
It said: "The RCN has raised the issue of down-banding with the Secretary of State for Health on a number of occasions alongside other concerns such as recruitment freezes and redundancies in the NHS."
When asked to reply, Lansley maintained his position.
"I don't change a word of what I said to the Select Committee, it was entirely accurate," he said.
"At no stage has the RCN raised this issue with me."
In order to get to the bottom of the issue, Lansley has agreed to publish the minutes of his meetings with the RCN.
An RCN spokesperson reiterated to NiP that evidence of down-banding has been provided to the Health Secretary in the form of press statements and submissions to the Health Select Committee.
The same source also claims the issue was raised directly by RCN members attending a listening exercise with Lansley during RCN Congress in April.
"The RCN does not issue minutes of its frequent meetings with the Secretary of State, Ministers or officials but the subject of down-banding and down-grading has been raised regularly in conversations and meetings with parliamentarians of all parties since July last year," the spokesperson said.
Davies was unavailable for comment.
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"We got VERY poor support from the RCN when we needed support to stop the downgrading so one wonders just how hard did they get try to get Lansley to know about the downbanding. He is a very poor secretary of health if he isn't aware of the downbanding, I'm sure if we took thousands of pounds off his salary he'd be more than aware" - Kathy, Cheshire
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