- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
The NHS is facing an “unprecedented financial challenge” that may force cuts to services and numbers of hospital beds, the head of an organisation representing health service organisations has said.
Mike Farrar, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation said the need to make £20 billion of financial savings by 2015 “means our finances are under more strain than ever”.
And he warned that few users of the NHS were prepared for the scale of the changes likely to be forced upon the service by financial pressures.
Mr Farrar told The Guardian: “I am deeply concerned that the gravity of this problem for the NHS is not widely understood by patients and the public.
“There is a real risk we will sleepwalk into a financial crisis that patients will feel the full force of.
“This could see the NHS forced to salami-slice its way out of financial trouble, cutting services and use of less effective treatments.”
Mr Farrar, whose organisation represents most NHS hospitals, primary care trusts, ambulance services and mental health trusts in England, said the health service faced an uncertain future.
“There are three scenarios,” he said. “The NHS maintains service standards but goes bust while doing so; it sees standards slip but maintains financial balance; or it keeps improving and stays in the black. Clearly, we all want the third option.”
Shadow health secretary John Healey warns of voter backlash against ‘broken promises’ on protecting health service
David Cameron faces a “lethal” threat as a growing number of voters decide that the government’s health reforms have raised serious questions about the future of the NHS, Labour will claim this week.
As peers prepare to table amendments to the health and social care bill, the shadow health secretary, John Healey, will tell the Labour conference that the first signs of danger for the prime minister could come as early as this winter.
In an interview with the Guardian, before his speech to the Labour conference on Wednesday, Healey said: “Cameron made promises on the NHS he is now breaking. The NHS is being cut, services are being cut … When you combine that with how important the NHS is as a security for us and our families, if people start to feel there are question marks over that – in the long run that is likely to be lethal for Cameron and the Tories. We have been preparing the ground on the NHS for next year, the year after, [and] for a winter of possible pressure on hospitals and a winter where it may be the service pressures and the financial pressures which really start to tell.”
Healey, who is joining forces with Liberal Democrat, Tory and crossbench peers to try to amend the health and social care bill in the Lords next month, will identify a series of problems with the NHS:
• More than 400,000 people have suffered longer waits for diagnosis and treatment since Cameron became prime minister compared with the same period under Labour. This represents a 50% leap in the number of patients who have waited longer than the target times.
• A looming financial crisis in the NHS is a “consequence of the legislation and the requirement by the [new economic regulator] Monitor for efficiency cuts.Not just 4% but 6% or 7% savings every year. Now, they may be able to cover this year but not the year after or the year after that.”.
• Hospitals would not be able to protect frontline services – a government pledge backed by keeping budgets stable. “You cannot make these level of cuts by salami slicing. You do that by fundamentally changing the way you provide services.”
The Leader of the Green Party has spoken out in support of people campaigning about plans to transfer the running of community health services in Gloucestershire to a social enterprise.
Campaigners argue the move to transfer county hospitals and various health services to a social enterprise company, as early as October 1, is a step towards privatisation. It comes as legal action is expected to be taken against NHS Gloucestershire over its decision.
A legal case has been launched by Stroud resident Michael Lloyd, to stop the transfer of more than 3,000 NHS health staff out of the NHS to the social enterprise company.
An interim injunction will also be sought to stop the proposed transfer of services taking place on October 1.
Leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas has offered her support to those opposing the plans.
She said: “The attempts by health commissioners in Gloucestershire to transfer staff and health services out of the NHS and into the hands of a ‘social enterprise’ company are causing real anxiety for local people, who do not feel that they have been properly consulted – and are concerned about the impact on the quality and availability of key services.
“By drafting in private companies to deliver essential healthcare, the county risks dangerously undermining the very principles on which the NHS is built.”