Will Mass NHS Job Losses Affect Standards of Care in Hospitals?

Royal Bolton Hospital announced this week that it would be axing roughly 300 posts while Norfolk and Suffolk’s mental health trust stated that up to 500 jobs could be lost as a result of cost-cutting measures.

The NHS has long been a target for cost-cutting measures as part of the coalition government’s wider austerity drive, aimed at cutting the deficit in the UK budget.  The ‘efficiency savings’ outlined for the NHS will equate to about £20bn of cutbacks by 2015.

Under huge pressure to meet savings targets, health trusts across the country are devising cost-cutting plans which often involve significant job losses. However, some experts have suggested that these cost-cutting measures will be to the detriment of the standards of care patients receive.

A number of stories have emerged over the past year that suggests this may be the case. A ward nurse at the Royal College of Nursing’s 2012 annual conference suggest that some nurses were dealing with up to 18 patients at once, while a 2011 poll carried out by The Guardian suggested that 4 out of 5 GPs and hospital doctors felt that patient care had suffered as a result of the cuts.

Over the same period of time some similarly worrying statistics have emerged, with 2012 seeing the amount of people having to wait over 4 hours for treatment in A&E between April and July at it’s highest level since 2004/5 and many patients waiting longer for operations than in the past. The annual cost of medical negligence payouts has also increased year-on-year since the coalition government came to power.

The dedication of Britain’s doctors and nurses to their patients is unquestionable but as cuts start to hit harder, the trend seems to suggest that standards of care will worsen as budgets are trimmed.

With the constant stream of news stories detailing NHS budget cuts, it has been suggested that many patients who suffer from substandard levels of care in hospitals will be put off making medical negligence claims for fear of depriving their local health trust of vital funds.

However, many legal experts and medical negligence solicitors have been quick to try and allay these fears, outlining the fact that wider budget concerns should not affect a patient’s legal right to compensation if their quality of life has suffered as a result of unacceptable standards of care.