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Nursing cuts a 'desperate state of affairs'

Cuts to frontline nursing staff are putting the lives of England's sickest babies at risk, claims neonatal charity Bliss.

A survey found one in three hospital units caring for premature and sick babies already have or will be making cuts to their nursing workforce during the past year and the coming 12 months.

This is through redundancies, recruitment freezes or the downgrading of nursing posts.

The charity revealed its call for an extra 1,150 neonatal nurses has not only failed to be upheld, but 140 posts have been axed in the past year.

The survey also found 32 neonatal units are also intending to cut their nursing workforce in the coming year. 

This comes at a time when Bliss' survey shows more than half of neonatal units are failing to meet the Department of Health and NHS's Toolkit for high quality neonatal services.

The standard requires 70% of a unit's registered workforce should be qualified in specialised neonatal care. This figure was found to be as low as 45% in some hospitals surveyed.

One in ten neonatal units reported to Bliss claiming they were being prevented from completing a qualification in specialised neonatal care by budget cuts in training and education budgets and/or staffing shortages.

Royal College of Nursing Executive Director of Nursing and Service Delivery Janet Davies said the report was “deeply shocking” and reflected “a desperate state of affairs”.

“It is deeply shocking that at a time when extra nurses are needed to meet even the most basic standards of neonatal care, some Trusts are making reckless cuts to posts, which will undoubtedly have an impact on the care of premature and sick babies.

“It is critical that hospitals have the right numbers of specialist nurses, who can provide one to one care to premature babies and support for families at an extremely stressful time in their lives. 

“Equally, a properly funded strategy is now urgently needed to recruit and retain more of these specialist nurses.”

“Immediate and short-sighted” cuts are being made in transitional and community care, despite the number of babies requiring these services is increasing year on year, argues Bliss.

“The excellent work undertaken since 2003 to establish neonatal managed clinical networks risks being undermined in the drive to reach efficiency saving targets,” says the report.