It is hard not to despair sometimes when it comes to the NHS. There is no doubt that it is a truly wonderful service with many staff going above and beyond their duties.

But then along comes today’s Care Quality Commission annual report which describes an NHS creaking under the strain of trying to provide high quality care as demand rises and resources are stretched.

Indeed, one in six of the hospitals inspected in 2011-12 did not meet the CQC’s standard for having enough staff on duty to care properly for patients.

The Royal College of Nursing will not be surprised by these findings. They have been warning that front line posts are going and that thousands are at risk.  Even if their figures are an overestimate today’s report shows there is a serious problem on hospital wards.

The irony is that the government in its new mandate has promised to take into account patient experiences through the friends and family test, which will emphasise quality of care.

The first thing patients are likely to complain about is lack of staff and the issues that stem from that such as lack of cleanliness, medication not being given at the correct time and ward rounds being delayed.

Currently ministers do not seem to appreciate how fundamental this is.  They continue to state that they are committed to improving the NHS and that they will not tolerate poor care. But they are insisting on massive, unprecedented savings while at the same time effectively flat lining the overall budget. Not to mention the £1bn handed back to the treasury which perhaps could have gone to re-hiring some of the staff.

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