WORKFORCE: George Eliot Hospital Trust is increasing the ratio of qualified nurses to healthcare assistants. The move is part of a plan to uphold quality and efficiency while attempting to meet a cost-improvement target of 10 per cent.

The trust has detailed proposals that introduce a 60:40 ratio of qualified nurses to unqualified nursing staff in all wards as part of a project that is expected to cost £1m in 2011-12.

At present the trust’s ratio is 50:50. It plans to hire more than 26 whole time equivalent nurses while reducing the number of healthcare assistants by about the same number.

It is also planning to close one general ward next month, saving £650,000 in 2011-12. According to the trust’s workforce plan, 14 whole time equivalent qualified nurses from that ward will be redeployed within the trust while 9.5 WTE healthcare assistant posts look set to disappear. The plan says that increasing the proportion of qualified nurses will maintain service quality and patient safety as the trust attempts to cut 10 per cent of its budget over 2011-12. The gains in quality of care are also expected to contribute to the trust’s cost savings programme in the longer term.

Increased efficiency through employing more registered nurses “will enable further bed closures in 2012-13”, the plan states.

The 60:40 target is below the Royal College of Nursing’s recommended minimum of 65:35. But RCN head of policy Howard Catton said the move was “encouraging” and went against a national trend of reducing crude headcount and employing more HCAs at the expense of registered nurses.

Meanwhile, Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals Foundation Trust has announced plans to cut 300 posts to help tackle a £38m gap in its finances this year.

In a statement, the trust’s chair Nigel Hards said: “We have already put measures in place to reduce spending across all areas and are building a robust savings and efficiency plan.

“However, to help us deliver these savings, we need to remove around 300 posts from across the trust. We will seek to minimise the number of redundancies by taking steps including reducing our temporary workforce and by not filling non-essential vacant posts,” Mr Wards said.