RCN's East Anglia survey shows 'fewer district nurses'

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A Royal College of Nursing (RCN) survey has shown a drop of up to 30% in the number of NHS district nurses serving counties in East Anglia.

The RCN survey showed the cuts ranged from a 30% cut in Suffolk to a 3.3% average for Essex, based on figures from the three trusts to respond there.

The NHS has disputed the survey saying the figures were wrong and the RCN had misinterpreted the data.

The RCN said cuts would be damaging for the home care of patients.

The nurses' union said the survey was based on figures provided by the NHS under Freedom of Information requests covering February to October 2011.

Cuts not 'sustainable'

Karen Webb, RCN director for the eastern region, said: "Unregistered staff are being recruited at the expense of qualified nursing posts which are being cut and this is bad news for quality patient care.

"Because of the government's strategy to move care into the community, we're talking about people who are often at the end of their lives and they deserve better.

"It will not be sustainable going forward for people to receive safe care in their homes."

The RCN survey showed:

  • Suffolk - 30% drop (312 staff down to 220)
  • Bedfordshire - 17% drop (218 staff down to 181)
  • Norfolk - 12% drop (485 staff down to 426)
  • Peterborough - 7% drop (68 staff down to 63)
  • Hertfordshire - 6% drop (471 staff down to 444)
  • Central Essex - 30% rise (148 staff up to 192)
  • South East Essex - 21% drop (312 staff down to 220)
  • South West Essex - 11% drop (228 staff down to 203)

The RCN said it did not get a response from Anglia Community Enterprise, which also serves Essex, so the average for the Essex trusts which did respond was a drop of 3.3%.

It said the figures it got from Cambridgeshire were not comparable with the other trusts.

A spokesperson for NHS Midlands and East said: "NHS Midlands and East refutes the information published by RCN. Regional workforce figures show that during the same period there was only a marginal change in the numbers of district nursing staff across the region.

"The RCN data is wrong because it asked organisations for different information in its first FOI request to what it subsequently asked six months later in the second FOI request.

"This means they have not compared like for like over the six month period."

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