YOUR report on the danger of nurse shortages to Somerset hospitals (County Gazette, September 28) was clearly not heeded by Conservative MPs or by the Government which they help make up.

Last week, we were told of the closure of wards at Chard and Shepton Mallet hospitals due to “shortage of registered nurses across Somerset, and difficulty in recruiting new staff”.

That is bound to put added strain on Musgrove Park Hospital.

The nursing crisis has several causes, none of them accidental.

The NHS has been recruiting nurses from overseas to help meet what the Royal College of Nursing estimated in a recent report (cited in the Guardian in May) as 40,000 vacancies across the UK.

Four out of five NHS nursing directors were worried that their hospitals relied on the goodwill of staff to keep services running, and two out of three said financial pressures to maintain an adequate service were worsening.

Brexit is now further harming recruitment with some 7 per cent of nurses and health visitors being nationals of other EU countries, many of whom are leaving due to the Conservatives’ failure to guarantee them a right to remain in the UK.

This, needless to say, impacts on the potential to recruit from other EU countries.

Health Education England, the organisation responsible for the training of nurses, claims its current increase in training by 2020 will produce only a maximum of 25,000 extra nurses, completely insufficient to fill the gap of 40,000.

In addition, the cap on pay rises for nurses at 1 per cent is reducing real-terms salaries.

To make matters worse, the Government has now abolished nurses’ bursaries in favour of unpopular loans.

The result is that in 2016/17, 20 per cent more people left the nursing register than joined it.

This “Perfect Storm” of falling real incomes due to pay restraint, an absence of planning for Brexit impacting recruitment, abolition of bursaries and already insufficient training programmes, is one entirely of Conservative Ministers and MPs’ own making.

Why don’t Conservative MPs back the LibDems’ policy to Scrap-the-Cap on nurses’ pay?

It’s time we had an MP willing to stand up to the likes of Jeremy Hunt and the Chancellor to stop the closure of wards and damage they are doing to our nursing profession at Musgrove and across the constituency.

GIDEON AMOS OBE (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) and DR MIKE OWEN
Taunton Deane Liberal Democrats