THE number of top nurses employed by Lancashire’s mental health trust has been slashed by more than a third.

New data shows Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust employed 99 Band 8 nurses at the start of 2012, but this dropped to just 60 by October last year, a reduction of 39 per cent.

It comes as the Royal College of Nursing warned of cuts to senior posts across the North West, saying that a loss of specialist knowledge and skills will hit patient care.

Steve Flanagan, the regional director, said: “Too many NHS trusts see removing or downgrading senior nurses as a quick way to save money, losing specialist knowledge and leadership skills.

“For example, a ward sister typically has many years of experience and technical skill, as well as being crucial in developing more junior nurses. These skills are not disposable – there is a considerable effect on patient care.”

The RCN said there has been a 12 per cent drop in Band 8 nurses in the North West, as well as a nine per cent reduction in Band 7s, between 2010 and 2013.

Although there was a slight drop in senior nursing posts at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust last year, a recent recruitment drive means the numbers are now similar to those at the start of 2012.

The number of band 7 nurses at Lancashire Care increased slightly, with three more employed in October compared to the start of 2012.

The total number of nurses dropped slightly at both trusts over the same period. The Lancashire Telegraph has obtained the data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), which said various caveats meant the figures could not be exact.

Colin Dugdale, who is deputy director of nursing at Lancashire Care said: “Following the transfer of community services to the trust in June 2011, reviews of staffing structures across the organisation have been undertaken.

“As a result there has been an amalgamation of senior management post and natural turnover of staff is also a factor in reduction of posts.

“The trust values the input of its clinicians and has embedded a co-production model where operational managers and clinicians work together to effectively lead delivery.”