Nurses warn of impact of public health cuts

Frontline survey reveals patients living in poverty as budget cuts increase pressure on services
Living in poverty

‘Aggressive’ cuts are putting patient health at risk, frontline nurses have warned.

Nurses responding to an RCN poll have revealed they have seen patients who are malnourished or in food poverty, living in unsafe housing or going without heating.

The survey comes a year after chancellor George Osborne announced £200 million of cuts to the public health budget.

Health divide

Office for National Statistics data shows the better off can expect almost 20 years' more ‘good health’ than those in the poorest areas of England. People in poorer areas are more likely to smoke, have poor diets and less access to health care.

Some 43% of the 10,000 nurses and healthcare assistants who took part in the RCN survey said their work was being affected by heightened pressure on public services.

The RCN said funding cuts were making long-standing health issues worse, and preventative work was being reduced.

The poll also revealed:

  • 38% have cared for patients with their health affected by malnutrition or food poverty.
  • 41% have seen patients affected by inadequate or unsafe housing.
  • 21% have seen patients affected by a lack of heating.

An analysis by the Faculty of Public Health warned the knock-on effect of the cuts to the NHS would be about £1 billion.

Socially isolated

One nurse who responded to the survey said: ‘The elderly are becoming more socially isolated due to financial constraints from the government, which impacts greatly on their physical and mental health.’

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: ‘There is a widening divide between people who are living long and healthy lives and those who are struggling due to poor housing or poverty – and this inequality in itself is something that should not be tolerated.

‘The RCN’s major worry is that efforts to tackle the issues and to help people live healthier lives are in danger of going backwards because of aggressive public health funding cuts.’