Hospital patients 'at risk' after cuts

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The Independent Online
PATIENTS have been put at risk by cuts in senior nursing staff at an NHS trust, according to leaked letters released yesterday by the Royal College of Nursing, writes Nicholas Timmins.

Moves last summer which the college says cut the number of night sisters from five to one have proved 'totally unsatisfactory', Jenny Rodgers, director of quality at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, has told the hospital's chief executive.

The changes have left the hospital 'in an extremely vulnerable position at night', Mrs Rodgers told Andrew Morris, the chief executive. It 'is frequently left in the hands of inexperienced staff which inevitably could put patients at risk'.

Changes to improve the cover have been approved but will take eight weeks to introduce, according to the correspondence.

The letter became public yesterday as the royal college took the trust to court in an attempt to stop it downgrading a further 16 ward sisters whose pay, the union says, would be cut by pounds 2,000 as a result.

The college accused the hospital of 'macho management' and of breaking national agreements over terms and conditions of service. It is seeking a High Court injunction today.

A growing number of hospitals have been reviewing the skill mix of their nurses, frequently downgrading senior staff or replacing them with junior staff to cut costs. The college said Frimley Park's refusal to consult on the changes had forced it for the first time to take a trust to court.

Mr Morris was not available for comment last night.

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