Page last updated at 14:22 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Health board plan to reduce nursing staff levels

Nurse with syringe
NHS GGC is unable to say yet how many nursing posts will go

Scotland's largest health board plans to reduce its nursing staff over the next five years in a bid to save £12m.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) said the cut would be achieved through "natural wastage and staff retirement".

It is not yet able to clarify how many posts will be lost from registered nursing and nursing support staff.

NHS GGC said the changes would see unqualified support staff trained to take on some lower-level duties currently carried out by nursing staff.

The health board's nurse director, Rosslyn Crocket, told BBC Radio Scotland that the new staffing arrangements would be made in the context of changes to patient care.

She said 70% of patients who needed "elective surgery" were now attending hospital as a day patient.

"Previously, patients would have come in and stayed overnight for two or three days, so, because we've had that change that means we need less nurses in the wards to cover 24-hours-a-day."

We know that health boards across Scotland are facing difficult times because of the recession, but quality patient care and frontline services must not be sacrificed for the sake of balancing the books
Anne Thomson
Royal College of Nursing

Ms Crocket said it was important to "reassure the public" that the proposed changes would not adversely affect patient care.

She said there would be no cut in the number of staff in wards - only a small change in the "kind of staff" employed.

"What we're planning is working towards having an all-trained staff within the ward," she said.

"That means all the registered nurses going through the universities and it also means all the support staff for the nurses will go through a form of training."

Ms Crocket said this would be a "competency-based training" that would allow support staff to undertake some low-level duties currently done by registered nurses.

'Difficult times'

She stressed that qualified nurses would still "undertake the complex care" required by patients.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it was "firmly opposed to the plan" which could risk patient safety.

RCN Scotland officer Anne Thomson said: "RCN Scotland would be extremely concerned about any reduction in the number of registered nurses, and we have met with the board and other unions to discuss their proposals.

"We know that health boards across Scotland are facing difficult times because of the recession, but quality patient care and frontline services must not be sacrificed for the sake of balancing the books.

The reality is that the NHS budget is rising next year in real terms to a record £11.347bn - even as Scotland's overall budget is falling in real terms because of Westminster cuts
Scottish government spokesman

"While nursing assistants are extremely important in supporting registered nurses to deliver safe patient care, using them to substitute large numbers of registered nurses could put patients at risk."

Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie, said the funding situation at NHS GGC was down to "SNP cuts".

"The SNP government made a deliberate choice to give the NHS its worst financial settlement since devolution. Now we are seeing the consequences," she said.

"It is simply unacceptable that Scotland's biggest health board should be forced to consider denying patients new treatments or making staff redundant to balance the books. This will inevitably have an impact on frontline patient care."

A spokesman for the Scottish government denied that accusation and said ministers had prioritised health care.

"The reality is that the NHS budget is rising next year in real terms to a record £11.347bn - even as Scotland's overall budget is falling in real terms because of Westminster cuts.

"As a government, we have prioritised and protected health in our draft budget for 2010/11, in the toughest financial circumstances since devolution, precisely because of the top priority we attach to Scotland's NHS."



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