RCN has called on the Government to better comprehend the seriousness of the financial situation that the nursing workforce is in, after the Autumn Statement makes no mention of the NHS.
Following the announcement of the Autumn Statement, Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN said: “The current crisis in the nursing workforce has been building through years of pay restraint. Today there was an opportunity to alleviate it, and the Chancellor has chosen not to take it.
“Nursing staff have endured reductions in their standard of living since 2010, with a 14 % real terms cut in what they take home – despite mounting demands on them and the urgent need for more staff.
“By scrapping funding for student nurse training at a time when many nurses are due to retire and there are huge uncertainties around Brexit, there is a real risk of creating a perfect storm which the profession cannot weather.
“The message many nurses will have taken home today is that fair pay, and action to recruit and retain enough staff to deliver NHS care, is not a priority for their government.” This comes in the same week as the RCN responds to the National Audit Office’s report on NHS finances.
Following the report, Janet Davies said: “Experience shows us what happens when the NHS runs on through years and years of deficits. It is impossible to maintain patient care of the same quality when budgets have been salami-sliced over a period of years. Staff hold the ship together for as long as they can, because they must, but good will alone cannot provide the right level of care for patients.
“Nurses are human, and they feel the effects of being underpaid and understaffed, as well as being acutely aware of the effects on their patients.
“This dire financial situation is bad on paper, but it also reflects the reality patients are experiencing, with longer waiting times and queues for urgent care.
“It is especially worrying that the NHS has been forced into the short-term solution of taking money out of capital projects simply to keep operating. This option will not be there in the long term, but the demand s on the service will continue to grow.
“The National Audit Office are giving the Government a heavy dose of reality concerning NHS finances, and we urge the Chancellor to take note.”
More than 60,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Government to scrap the 1% pay cap for NHS staff in order to alleviate the retention crisis, and the RCN has warned that unless nurses’ pay reflects the increase in cost of living, trusts will struggle to attract enough staff to provide safe patient care.