In the response, the RCN points out that the consultation fails to address the burning issue of recruitment and retention of staff – the biggest challenge facing the NHS at the moment.
The demographics of nursing show an ageing workforce and a workforce that is already understaffed. The NHS needs to ensure that patient safety and outcomes are at the core of what the NHS stands for but without well qualified and valued staff this is not possible. The Oxfordshire CCG, the NHS and local Trusts cannot afford to lose any more nurses and long periods of uncertainty with this two phase consultation is a risk that will only be compounded as the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire (BOB) Sustainability and Transformation Plan unfolds.
Victoria Couling, Senior RCN Officer says: “We believe that any future consultation in phase two needs to address workforce issues and plans in a more cohesive way, be clearer with regards to where the consultation sits within the Sustainability and Transformation Plan and has the agreement of the STP. Without this, the population of Oxfordshire will be expected to respond to consultation after consultation at not only huge expense but also public confidence in NHS managers to develop and deliver safe healthcare.
“We risk severe consultation fatigue and we cannot afford to be fatigued over such an important issue. This consultation and the looming changes that the STP may bring will likely change the face of healthcare in Oxfordshire forever. It’s vital that the public and NHS staff are fully engaged with this process. The STP draft plan talked about massive amounts of money needing to be saved and the RCN is concerned and needs reassurance that any plans for the future of healthcare in Oxfordshire is not just a cost saving exercise to meet the unrealistic targets set by government but to truly deliver an excellent healthcare service especially given the challenges of being able to treat many more conditions and an ageing population.”