Nurse cuts 'to hit patient safety'
Plans to randomly cut nursing posts across Northern Ireland will endanger patients' safety, it has been claimed.
The number of district nurses fell by 8% between March 2010 and March last year, with health visitor and school nurse staff levels also reducing.
Ambitious government plans to move care from acute hospitals to community settings have been branded a "facade" by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
Janice Smyth, director of the RCN in Northern Ireland said: "Further plans to cut nursing posts across Northern Ireland will undermine patient safety by artificially and randomly reducing the nursing workforce with no consideration of patient need.
"Feedback from RCN members working in frontline services across Northern Ireland indicates that the current pressures on the system are unsustainable.
"This has most recently been seen through the significant political and media attention focused upon pressures on accident and emergency services."
According to the RCN, in Northern Ireland health trust plans for 2012-2013 anticipate a further reduction of 500 nursing posts on top of a 2% decrease in the nursing workforce in Northern Ireland since December 2009.
Health Minister Edwin Poots has considered wider reforms in the NHS in Northern Ireland which includes merging some services.