Official figures show that there are over 4,500 fewer nurses in the NHS than two years ago, a decline which is seriously affecting patient care.
According to statistics from the NHS Information Centre, there were 4,661 fewer qualified nurses, midwives and health visitors in April 2012 than there were two years earlier, a total drop of 0.2%.
This is despite government pledges that frontline services would not be hit during the NHS budget cuts.
At the same time, a study by Southampton University and King’s College London has found that nursing numbers has a direct effect on quality of patient care.
Out of 3,000 nurses from 31 NHS trusts, only 24 per cent believe that there is enough staff to properly care for patients. Almost nine in 10 said at least one ‘necessary activity’ was not done on their last shift due to lack of time.
Jane Ball, deputy director of the National Nursing Research Unit at King’s College London, said: “The results provide clear evidence of the links between nurse staffing and the quality of care patients receive.
"On wards with poorer registered nurse staffing levels, nurses were more likely to say that care had been left undone due to lack of time.”
In addition, two fifths of nurses were found to be dissatisfied with their job, with 44 per cent saying they would leave if they could.
Nurses who had to care for fewer patients felt more satisfied with their jobs, as well as being more likely to say patient safety was good or excellent.
Janet Davies, executive director of nursing and service delivery at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The Government has laid bare the effects of its own austerity drive in the NHS.
"Despite our repeated warnings, the pressure to save £20 billion in the NHS in England is resulting in cuts to jobs, hitting the front line hard.
"You can’t lose more than 4500 nurses, midwives and health visitors without seriously damaging patient care.”
According to the Telegraph, a spokesman for the Department of Health has said that funding in the NHS will increase by £12.5 billion over the next four years:
"Because we believe passionately in the NHS, funding will increase by £12.5 billion over the next four years, protecting the NHS for the future.”
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