Union says plans have hallmarks of April Fool’s joke, but no-one is laughing

Tim Lezard

NHS logoUNISON is warning that patients and staff will suffer because the NHS is perilously underprepared for the raft of government reforms coming into force today.

The union, which has been working to help the transition of thousands of staff into the new commissioning boards before the government’s 1 April deadline, is warning that there has been a huge loss of skills and expertise. This will stand in the way of delivering health services, and the impact will be felt for many years to come.

The cost of the reforms have also spiralled out of control, with experts predicting that the total cost could top £3bn. Together with the demand for £20bn worth of so-called efficiency savings, these costs are piling the pressure onto health budgets. Reports are already emerging of treatments such as sight-saving cataract and ear operations being rationed.

Health workers are also losing their jobs – between August 2011 and November 2012 8,273 people left the NHS and were not replaced, including more than 7,000 nurses. This is especially worrying given that health workers already fear that staffing levels on wards are not sufficient to deliver safe, dignified, compassionate care*.

Even more precious funds will be leached out of the NHS by the growing involvement of private providers whose primary duty is to make profits for their shareholders, not to provide the very best care for patients. Management consultancies PwC, KPMG and Capita are already reported to be working with 100, 50 and 40 clinical commissioning groups respectively.

Christina McAnea, UNISON head of health, said:  “These reforms have got all the hallmarks of an April Fool’s joke but no one should be laughing. They’ve not only thrown the NHS into chaos, they’ve wasted billions, and are in serious danger of losing the national from our national health service.  Staff are losing their jobs and treatments are already being rationed – that means patients are suffering.

“When the Tories took office, satisfaction with the NHS was at an all time high and waiting lists at an all time low. In just three years they have turned this progress around. It is deeply worrying that things are only going to get worse.”

 


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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