Nearly half of nurses uphappy with managers May 10 2004
Madeleine Brindley, The Western Mail
ALMOST half of Welsh nurses say they are unhappy with the way the NHS is being run, in a damning indictment of the Welsh Assembly Government's record in charge.
And one in three fear the NHS will only get worse in the next few years, according to one of the largest surveys of nurses into the effects of investment in the NHS.
There are widespread concerns among the Welsh nursing workforce about the decline in nursing numbers in the last four years and the heavy reliance on expensive agency staff.
They have also spoken about the lack of progress in reducing waiting times and the growth in the number of NHS managers.
And one in three of the Welsh nurses questioned, on behalf of the Royal College of Nursing, said that patients' experiences had not improved.
The revelations, at the start of the RCN Congress in Harrogate today, come just days after the Audit Commission for Wales delivered a damning diagnosis on the state of the NHS.
In its critical report it said urgent and radical change was needed if the health service in Wales is to break out of the vicious circle it is trapped in.
The watchdog highlighted the high levels of delayed transfers of care - a quarter of Welsh hospital beds are "blocked" because of such delays - a concern shared by large sectors of the Welsh nursing workforce.
The RCN's survey found:
45% of Welsh nurses are dissatisfied with the running of the NHS
65% said managerial staff had increased as a result of investment in the NHS in the last four years
66% said the use of agency and temporary nursing staff had increased in that time while 47% said nursing numbers had fallen
39% said increased investment had caused waiting lists to rise.
Agency nursing last year cost Wales £18m - 1% of the total NHS bill - and was singled out as "worrying" by Auditor General for Wales Sir John Bourn in his annual report into NHS finances.
And official figures reveal that there are still more than 700 long-term nursing vacancies in Welsh hospitals and the community.
But the survey also revealed that most nurses working in the priority area of cancer care overwhelmingly believe that patients are now benefiting from improved treatments, reduced waiting times and more specialist nurses.
Richard Jones, interim director of the RCN in Wales, said, "We have, in Wales, a nurse on both NHS trust boards and local health boards and we are reaping the benefits of that because we have nurses in decision-making arenas.
"Some nurses have said they cannot see much difference in the NHS at the moment but I think it takes time for those differences to become established. Until the time they do see the benefits in Wales, then some will remain disillusioned."
Health Minister Jane Hutt told The Western Mail, "I recognise we still have a lot of work to do for nurses in NHS Wales but the findings show we are heading in the right direction and that nurses are optimistic about the future.
"I was pleased to see that 39% of nurses feel that things will get better in the future and 37% agree that patients' experience in the NHS has improved over the last few years.
"It must be remembered that intake to nurse training has increased by 39% since 1999 and by 2006 we expect nearly 1,300 nurses to complete training every year.
"With the continued expansion of our return to practice scheme this is positive news for nurses in Wales. It shows we are tackling the vacancy problems we face and that we are on target to create an extra 6,000 nurses by 2010.
"I look forward to speaking to the RCN about these results and hearing from people at the sharp end of the service about how they see the future of nursing in Wales."