NHS news review

Conservative election poster 2010

A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat (Conservative) coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.

Campaigners win delay to controversial NHS changes | This is Devon

A controversial “part privatisation” of some back office NHS functions has been put on hold after it provoked an uproar from staff.

The proposal to hand over administrative duties for the Westcountry’s family health services to a 50-50 Government and private sector partnership had enraged unions and family doctors.

After a series of meetings, the primary care trusts (PCT) , which had hoped to sign off the transfer this month, have postponed until January after conceding some issues “would benefit from greater discussion”.

Karen Williams, an organiser for the trade union Unison in Devon, welcomed the news.

“Our members are very pleased that they have been given some breathing room on this,” she said.

“While it is not a long period of time and I don’t think people will exactly be breathing a sigh of relief, members will feel that they have been paid attention to in terms of their concerns.”

Ms Williams said the union had concerns over individuals’ employment terms, as well as some larger questions about the manner of the transfer.

Under the agreement, certain administrative tasks will be transferred to the NHS Shared Business Services (SBS), a partnership between the Government and private firm Steria.

GPs in Devon and Cornwall have already voiced misgivings about SBS since the group took over invoice processing which many practices complain has resulted in late payment and bills being rejected for spurious reasons.

Former Health Minister and Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw has spoken out against the latest transfer to SBS, calling it “part-privatisation.”

Whistleblowers being ignored, RCN survey finds | News | Nursing Times

No action is taken in almost half of cases where nurses are whistleblowers about poor NHS care, according to a survey.

The poll of more than 3,000 nurses for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) found nothing was done when fears were raised about issues including patient safety and too few staff on duty.

More than a third of nurses (34%) said they have been discouraged or told directly not to report their concerns about quality of care. Some 73% said managers had told them not to speak up, while 24% said work colleagues had said it was a bad idea.

The RCN said the results suggest pressure on staff is intensifying – in 2009, just 21% of nurses said they had been discouraged or told not to speak out.

The survey follows heavy criticism of nursing care in a series of reports from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the Patients Association.

It found that more than 80% of nurses had raised concerns with employers about issues relating to NHS wards. Yet 84% admitted they worried about being victimised or expected a negative effect on their career from whistleblowing. Of those who reported concerns, 38% had filled in incident forms (an official record regarding threat to patient safety), while 72% had told their line manager. Overall, just 20% of nurses said their employer took immediate action (down from 29% in the 2009 survey), while 48% said no action was ever taken (compared with 35% previously).

UK Uncut

Philip Green

Philip Green is a multi-billionaire businessman, who runs some of the biggest names on British high streets. His retail empire includes brands such as Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge and British Home Stores.

Philip Green is not a non-dom. He lives in the UK. He works in the UK. He pays tax on his salary in the UK. All seems to be in order. Until you realise that Philip Green does not actually own any of the Arcadia group that he spends every day running. Instead, it is in the name of his wife who has not done a single day’s work for the company. Mrs Green lives in Monaco, where she pays not a penny of income tax.

In 2005 Philip Green awarded himself £1.2bn, the biggest paycheck in British corporate history. But this dividend payout was channeled through a network of offshore accounts, via tax havens in Jersey and eventually to Green’s wife’s Monaco bank account. The dodge saved Green, and cost the tax payer, close to £300m. This tax arrangement remains in place. Any time it takes his fancy, Green can pay himself huge sums of money without having to pay any tax.

Before the election, the Lib Dems liked to talk tough on tax avoiders. But as soon as they entered the coalition, this pre-election bluster became just another inconvenient promise they quietly forgot. In August David Cameron appointed the country’s most notorious serial-tax avoider to advise the government on how best to slash public spending. Not a single Lib Dem minister uttered a word of complaint. A Guardian editorial denounced this as “shameful”.

Philip Green’s £285m tax dodge could pay for:

  • The full, hiked up £9,000 fees for almost 32,000 students
  • Pay the salaries of 20,000 NHS nurses

And if that’s not reason enough to take action against Sir Philip, it is worth noting that he has built his £5bn fortune on the back of sweatshop labour, using Mauritius sweatshops where Sri Lankans, Indians and Bangladeshis toil 12 hours a day, six days a week, for minimal pay.

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