The necessity of maintaining the number of NHS nursing jobs at a high level has been underlined in a new report from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
Entitled More Than Just a Number, the study has warned the government against seeking to cut spending by reducing the number of senior nursing staff working in the NHS, as they believe this will have a detrimental impact on care quality standards.
Data collated by the royal college revealed that there are now 3,994 fewer full-time equivalent nursing staff working in senior positions - bands 7 and 8 - than in April 2010. These categories include ward sisters, community matrons, clinical nurse specialists and advanced nurse practitioners.
According to the RCN, staff numbers in these bands need to be increased and maintained to ensure specialist clinical knowledge and leadership is not lost from the healthcare service, as they are necessary to effectively manage wards.
Senior nurses also play a key role in aiding communication between management and clinical staff, meaning they are important in administrative terms as well.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN, said: "Senior nurses are ideally placed to act as a bridge between frontline staff and management, enabling resources to be used where they are most needed.
"In the community, senior and specialist nurses often work with a great deal of autonomy and are often solely responsible for patients. It is these patients who are affected when these posts are removed."
This comes at a time when an ageing population means more people require long-term complex care, meaning the NHS needs all the expertise and experience it can get.
Moreover, a new focus is set to be placed on staffing levels from April 2014 onwards, when NHS trusts will be required to regularly publish statistics showing that their departments are appropriately manned for the first time.
Trends such as these could lead to an increase in NHS nursing recruitment activities in the years to come.
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