Hundreds of health visitor and community nurse jobs ‘could be lost’ because of the financial crisis facing primary care trusts (PCTs), says the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA).
An Amicus/CPHVA snapshot survey of 56 of its 129 membership centres in England revealed that 50% said that trusts had proposed, within the last two years, a restructuring of community nursing services with a view to reducing the number of experienced staff.
Trusts are already freezing health visitor, school nurse and district nurse posts across the country. Training budgets and training places have also been slashed.
Amicus/CPHVA is calling for an immediate halt to job cuts and the ‘unfreezing’ of posts now on hold. It is not right that experienced staff should be lost, especially when consultations for a Patient-led NHS are taking place.
The targeting of community nurse jobs – often regarded as ‘the soft option’ by managers – is fuelled by a £250 million deficit in PCT budgets and also by plans to merge PCTs into larger entities.
Amicus/CPHVA said that more than 50% of the centres surveyed had said trusts were ‘freezing’ recruitment. Nine centres reported the possibility of redundancies.
Nearly 50% of centres surveyed said that training budgets had been cut over the last year, as well as the number of training places for the next generation of health visitors and community nurses
Amicus/CPHVA said it was unable to give precise figures about the scale of cuts to the community nursing workforce over the next few years as ‘the situation remains fluid.’
The Amicus Lead Officer for Nursing, Barrie Brown said: ‘The collation of statistics is difficult, as managers are often ‘economical with the truth’ when questioned by union representatives. There is also, in some cases regrettably, a climate of fear when Amicus/CPHVA reps are reluctant to probe too deeply, as they fear for their jobs.’
‘We could be facing hundreds of job losses. PCTs should stop any plans they have for job cuts and start recruiting for posts now currently frozen. They should be more be open with their staff as to the financial problems they face.’
The Amicus Head of Health, Gail Cartmail said: ‘Since 1997, the Labour Government has been strongly committed to the public health agenda. PCTs are undermining this commitment to improve the nation’s health by planning to save money at the expense of community nurses. It goes against the ethos of a patient-led NHS.’