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More nursing cuts to the NHS: Should nurses go private?

19th April 2012 Print

With the government's initiative to make every NHS Trust a financially independent foundation trust by the year 2014, many hospitals are looking for ways to cut their running costs. These money-saving possibilities range from changes to ways of working to cutting the number of staff. Discussions have taken place at NHS London regarding reducing the nursing budget in the capital. Managers have looked into the financial savings to be made from reducing staff levels across eighteen hospital trusts and have suggested that the money generated could run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

What Could This Mean for Nurses and Patient Care?

Many unions and nursing organisations claim that cuts to staffing will lead to poorer service levels. With fewer nurses on wards and longer waiting times as staff struggle to keep on top of their workload, patient care will suffer. Incidents such as patients' medication being missed or patients falling because there is no one to help them in and out of bed will increase in number. If there are fewer nurses to spot patients in difficulty or those whose condition is deteriorating, mortality rates will rise.

Many nurses in these situations experience high levels of stress as they try to keep on top of all their responsibilities. This and the fear of losing their jobs due to further staffing cuts increases the pressure on nurses and other healthcare professionals. Job dissatisfaction and burnout are common issues faced by nursing staff.

The Possibilities of Going Private

With cuts planned for many services and some being stopped altogether, many patients who can afford to will choose private healthcare over the NHS. The option of having immediate treatment and a private room during a hospital stay make going private a desirable option for many people. Health insurance is offered to many as part of their employment and is no longer something that only the very rich can afford.

The private-healthcare sector is growing rapidly, as is the range of services it can provide. In the past, orthopaedic care was the main specialism of many private hospitals. Today they include cancer care, transplants, surgery and maternity care, along with neo-natal and paediatric care. With demand continually increasing, there are plenty of opportunities for nurses to specialise and develop their careers.

Many nursing jobs offer a similar salary to the NHS and a good pension. They may have less annual leave but there are good opportunities for further training and career development. Many healthcare professionals are put off from working in the private sector due to its commercial side. However, with its investment in providing a good service as well as staff development and training, it is certainly worth considering.

NHS or Private Nursing?

Working for the private sector certainly isn't an easy option. Both private and NHS nurses work extremely hard to care for their patients and take on lots of responsibility for their welfare. Those who wish to specialise should look at how they want their careers to progress and where they can get the best training.

Many NHS services such as accident and emergency will stay in the public sector, but with many other services facing cuts, lots of people will be looking to the private sector to fill the void.