As Lansley faces the wrath of nurses, union backs up research saying community services are close to breaking point


Unite has warned patient safety is being threatened by the level of cuts to NHS community services.

As health secretary Andrew Lansley got a rough ride at the RCN college, Unite has backed the latest research which reveals that NHS community services are close to breaking point.

Unite, which has 100,000 members in the NHS, said that the feedback from its own members showed that those community services that were being particularly hard hit were:

  • community nursery nurses
  • speech and language therapists
  • those working for the ambulance services
  • district nurses having to deal with an increased number of housebound patients with long-term conditions.

Unite warned patient safety was being  compromised by the cuts being imposed by NHS employers in a bid to implement the government’s £20bn worth of savings for the health service and the privatisation changes in the Health and Social Care Act.

Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s warm words today can’t disguise the concrete reality that the coalition’s policies are having a severe impact on community services.

“We are very concerned that patient safety is being jeopardised by the continuing ever-increasing ‘drip-drip’ of cuts that NHS employers in England are implementing.

“The government has promised more health visitors and these are starting to come on stream – but our members are telling us that the training and supervisory back-up is not there in sufficient strength. There are not enough Community Practice Teachers (CPTs) to train all the new health visitors.

“Our experience is that community nursery nurses across England are being cut  and not being replaced when they leave or retire – and this is hitting children and families, the very group that ministers say they are trying to help.

“There are also severe cuts in the ambulance service, with London being particularly stretched.

“One can’t underestimate the damage that the Health and Social Care Act has had – the £2bn- £3bn spent on this unnecessary ‘musical chairs’ bureaucracy is money that could have been invested in hard pressed community services.

“We are living with a government that is not listening to the health professionals and is set on selling off the NHS.”

Figures released by the Royal College of Nursing today suggested more than 26,000 posts have gone in the last two years and predict another 34,000 are at risk over the next three years.

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