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'We stand by our figures' say North-East nursing leaders
AN apparent rise in the number of nurses employed by health trusts in the region in the last three years can be explained by NHS reorganisation, nursing leaders have stressed.
The Royal College of Nursing was responding to yesterday's article in The Northern Echo which claimed the gloomy picture of bed reductions and nursing cuts painted by the RCN last week is not borne out by what has happened in the rest of the regions Health Service.
Last week the RCN published a mass of statistics showing that the number of acute and general hospital beds in the region had dropped by 450 between 2010 and that several hospital trusts - North Tees and Hartlepool, Gateshead and Northumbria Healthcare - had reduced the number of senior nurses it employed.
But because the RCN statistics also showed an apparent increase in beds and senior nurses at other North-East trusts - including County Durham and Darlington, South Tees Hospitals and Newcastle Hospitals - in the last three years, this newspaper published an article highlighting this trend.
In response Estephanie Dunn, operational manager of the RCN in the Northern Region, said: "The RCN stands by our analysis of the figures.
"It would be wrong to conclude that the number of beds and the number of nurses has grown since 2010 from these figures.
"This is because in April 2012, a number of Foundation Trusts across the North-East took over the responsibility for employing community nurses and health care assistants (HCAs) who were formerly employed by primary care trusts.
"The figures do not represent a net increase in the numbers of qualified nursing staff employed by trusts across the region, and it would be incorrect to make such a claim. All that has happened is that a number of trusts have merged to become larger employers.
"In the case of two further trusts who have taken over services formerly operated by trusts in North Yorkshire, again, this represents an increase in the geographic provision of services by a single provider, and not a net increase in the number of "new" qualified nursing staff.
"In those NHS trusts that have not been subject to significant geographic or service reconfigurations in 2012, the figures show a clear decrease in both the number of beds and the nursing headcount."
The RCN said the cuts were driven by "unrealistic" cost cutting targets imposed by central government but NHS managers insisted it is because of a strategy to move services out of hospitals and into communities.
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