RCN bosses worried about replacing nurses on wards in Banbury and Oxford plan

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The local director for the biggest voice in nursing has expressed serious concern about plans to axe £125m from the workforce budget, revealed in plans for the area including Banbury and Oxford.

Patricia Marquis, regional director of the Royal College of Nursing, said the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West show fewer nurses and more healthcare assistants.

“We have serious concerns about taking out over £125 million from the workforce budget – depleting staffing as demand for care continues to rise,” she said.

“The document sketches out plans for the ‘use of generic support workers, reduction of nursing grade input, increased use of healthcare assistants’.”

Ms Marquis spoke just days after a paper published in the BMJ demonstrated the link between numbers of registered nurses and patient mortality in a number of countries.

“The NHS could not run without its vital support staff but the evidence is clear and long standing – where you have enough registered nurses you have better patient outcomes and fewer avoidable deaths.

“Registered nurses are highly educated and have wide clinical experience – they can spot signs of a patient deteriorating and take the action that is needed.

“Substituting registered nurses with support staff puts patient care and patients’ lives at risk. Employers within each STP area must involve nurses and their representatives urgently to enable them to shape the plans before it is too late.”

She said: “We agree there are improvements that can be made to the way services are delivered but the plan identifies a £479m funding gap over the next five years. The NHS simply needs more money.

“We are pleased to see the document lays out plans for improving retention, working on overseas recruitment and enhancing flexibility.

“We would welcome the opportunity to sit down with this STP group and really look at what the plans will mean for patients and the workforce.

“Nurses are expertly placed to help develop the services that they are involved in delivering and the RCN should be involved in local workforce action boards and other relevant groups.”

“The STP leaders must be honest about what they are actually proposing to do. There must be open and honest discussion about these plans if they are going to be fit for purpose.”