The Director of Policy and Professionals Services at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, Tom Hadley, said that “When hospitals are understaffed and doctors overworked, it is patients that ultimately suffer. It is not acceptable that babies born outside of normal working hours are 70% more likely to die due to the lack of available consultants. Hospitals must ensure that there is a sufficient provision of staff to deliver patient care. The NHS workforce is already overstretched; we need to move away from a system where trusts see staffing costs as means of balancing the books. In acute care units – where hospitals are increasingly relying on specialised temporary staff to deliver patient care, the planned 45% expenditure cut will only serve to exacerbate this problem. The fact that clinicians are currently not providing the recommended out of hours consultations demonstrates the need for more, not less, flexible solutions to drive up standards of patient care.“
Recently Unison, the public sector union, said that 32% of NHS staff believe that austerity measures such as freezing recruitment, cutting posts and services, outsourcing and restructuring have led to a decrease in the quality of patient care. In a survey of 8,000 NHS staff the union found that 80% of respondants reported an increase in workload, with 77% warning that stress levels have increased over the last year. The survey also found that 50% of respondants had experienced staff shortages in the past 12 months, with 59% of respondents reporting a reduction in the number of staff employed.
The Head of Health at Unison recently said that \”What is truly distressing is that that the survey clearly shows how spending cuts are already threatening to damage the quality of patient care. The Government are turning back the clock and dragging the country back to the dark days of the eighties and early nineties when the NHS was starved of money. Government cuts threaten to undo and reverse the benefits of all the investment and hard work that has gone into turning the NHS round over the past 13 years. We have been able to train our own nurses instead of scouring third world countries to fill shortages. In a worrying reversal, half the people we surveyed are affected by staff shortages. This is particularly dangerous because the lack of staff was a key factor in the appalling problems with patient care at Mid Staffs Hospital.\”
The Department of Health responded by saying \”The coalition Government has made an historic commitment to increase NHS spending in real terms in every year of this Parliament. But the demand on the NHS is so great that in order to sustain and improve services, we need to make every penny count. The efficiency drive is about cutting waste and bureaucracy and all savings made will be put back into patient care. Better care can cost less and all over the NHS people are making changes to improve care and save money.\”
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