Nurses express fears over funding cuts damaging public health in Royal College of Nursing regional poll

Stock image. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

Stock image. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Public health challenges and cuts to funding are risking people’s health, nurses in the region fear.

A Royal College of Nursing (RCN) poll of more than 700 nurses and healthcare assistants in the East of England found that 34% have seen the health of patients affected by malnutrition or food poverty.

When asked in what ways the ageing population impacted their work, 45% said heightened pressure on public health services. Another 50% said the proportion of their patients who need care for preventable conditions has risen during the course of their career.

Karen Webb, eastern region director at the RCN, said: “This research shows that our members are seeing huge increases in ill health which could have been prevented.

“While lifestyle choices have a part to play, many of the problems identified by nurses come down to the very difficult lives many of them lead. Inadequate or unsafe housing has a huge effect on health, as does overcrowding, food poverty, overwork, unemployment and family breakdown.

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“Dealing with just one of these problems can take its toll on both mental and physical health, but the reality is that many people live with many of them.”

Carol Evans, eastern region board chair at the RCN, added: “Increased health inequalities are worrying for nurses who deal with the consequences of factors such as poor housing and poverty.

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“Our major worry is that efforts to tackle these issues and help people live healthier lives are in danger of going backwards because of aggressive public health funding cuts.

“These issues are not new - it is time that real, consistent progress is made in tackling them to avoid the consequences of profound social problems in the years to come.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “NHS staff are our greatest asset - that’s why there are already 10,800 more nurses on our wards since 2010, as well as 50,000 nurses in training for the future.

“The NHS is busy, but performing well - with 1.6 million more operations taking place each year compared to 2010. We are committed to delivering a safer seven-day NHS and have funded the NHS own plan for the future with an extra £10 billion per year by 2020 to transform services.”

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