Fewer nurses are providing more care, says the RCN

The RCN's latest Frontline First report says the nursing profession is increasingly becoming overstretched

An increasing number of applicants are being turned away from nursing degree programmes yet the nursing profession remains overstretched with fewer nurses providing more care, according to the RCN.

In its latest report from its Frontline First campaign, which has analysed the effects of financial pressures on the nursing workforce in England since 2010, the college says there are 1,845 fewer NHS nurses now than there were five years ago.

The RCN’s report, The Fragile Frontline, argues that the shortage of nurses on the ground is being masked by the fact that the number of posts has increased since 2010.

While overall the number of NHS posts has increased by 6,434 since 2010, the RCN says that when excluding midwives, health visitors and school nurses from the total figure, the number of whole-time equivalent posts has only increased by 1,470. Furthermore, it says the headcount number of nurses has fallen by 1,845.

RCN head of policy Howard Catton said this suggests nurses are working longer hours or working in more than one role.

'The workforce is under particular pressure and if people are working longer, we are worried about the additional strain being put on them,' he said.

The college conducted a Freedom of Information survey with the university admissions service UCAS, which revealed that there is no shortage of potential nurses to increase the workforce. In 2014, more than 30,000 potential nursing students were turned away as there were 52,530 applications for just 21,205 places.

This is a significant rise on the 47,930 applications for the 18,955 places in 2012.

The report welcomes the fact that Health Education England increased training commissions last year and recommended a further increase of 4.5% this year, but it says the number of places remains lower than in 2009.

Mr Catton said urgent action is needed to address the shortfall as nurses are being forced to work longer hours and face burnout.

‘The problem we have is that there is a limited supply of nurses, so we are trying to get more out of the people we have got,’ he said.


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