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Cost-cutting measures must not compromise safe staffing, says RCN's Janet Davies

College general secretary says staffing should be based on clinical need, and is not the domain of accountants

The RCN said cost-cutting measures should not compromise safe staffing levels, after the regulator Monitor urged foundation trusts to minimise their deficits.

Monitor chief executive David Bennett has written to 46 foundation trusts with the biggest deficits asking them to revisit their financial plans because the current ones are ‘unaffordable’.

He said even the providers planning for a surplus this year need to look again at their plans 'to see what more can be done’.

In the meantime, Dr Bennett asked trusts to pay particular attention to a number of actions, including ensuring vacancies are filled only where deemed essential, and ensuring existing acute inpatient safe staffing guidance has been adopted in a 'proportionate and appropriate' way. He said rosters should be rigorously managed to deploy substantive staff efficiently across all required shifts including evenings and weekends.

The letter comes days just after Monitor issued trusts with guidance on implementing best financial practice.

Responding to the letter, RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘While trusts must do all they can to stay on top of their finances, there can be no compromise on safe staffing levels, nor should money in any way determine how many staff are needed to provide safe care.

‘Staffing levels are either safe or they are not, and this must be decided based on patient need, using safe-staffing guidance,' she said. 'If staffing levels are decided by accountants rather than clinical staff, patient care will suffer.’

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