- 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.
Health workers at Britain’s largest trade union, Unite, have rejected the government’s “final offer” on NHS pensions reform.
The move comes at the start of a crunch week of union meetings that will help decide whether there is a third wave of the industrial action that caused widespread disruption on 30 June and 30 November last year.
Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, which represents around 100,000 health workers including pharmacists and laboratory assistants, said: “Our NHS executive unanimously reject the government’s pernicious attempts to make hard working and dedicated NHS staff pay more, work longer and get less when they retire.
“The government’s attacks on public sector pensions are politically motivated, as part of an overall design to privatise the NHS, cut public services, break-up the national pay agreements, and disrupt legitimate trade union activities and organisation.”
McCluskey said Unite would continue to campaign against the reforms proposals, which include increasing contributions, pegging the NHS pension age to the state pension age and the uprating of benefits from the RPI rate of inflation to the less buoyant CPI.
David Cameron today called for wider uptake of intentional nursing rounds and reduced bureaucracy, and established a nurse review group to address concerns about NHS care standards.
The Prime Minister praised nurses but said he had concerns about standards of care being provided in some areas. He called for several nursing initiatives to be taken up and extended (see box).
He said: “We need an NHS which ensures that every patient is cared for with compassion and dignity in a clean environment.
“If we want dignity and respect, we need to focus on nurses and the care they deliver. Somewhere in the last decade the health system has conspired to undermine one of this country’s greatest professions. It’s not one problem in particular. It’s the stifling bureaucracy.”
As revealed by Nursing Times yesterday, Mr Cameron announced the creation of a Nurse Quality Forum group to lead the uptake of good practice and recommend ways of improving care standards.
It will be composed nurses, nursing leaders and patients and be “charged with taking a national leadership role in promoting excellent care and ensuring good practice is adopted across the NHS”.
UNISON, the UK’s largest health union, today urged the government not to waste time going over old ground, and take the recent Nursing and Midwifery Commission findings as the starting point for boosting care in the NHS.
The union warned that, as high quality care depends on well-resourced and well-staffed hospital wards, job losses and post freezes for NHS staff across the board will be real barriers to boosting standards.
Gail Adams, UNISON Head of Nursing, said:
“We are calling on the government not to waste time going over old ground, and use the recent Nursing and Midwifery Commission’s findings as its starting point.
“All the research points to higher nurse to patient ratios delivering higher outcomes. Yet all over the country, nursing posts are being frozen, or even lost. And job losses elsewhere in the health service have a huge knock on effect on frontline care. As admin workers lose their jobs, it’s clinical staff such as nurses who have to pick up the pieces, filling in forms rather than being on the wards.
“It is a sad fact that only a quarter of nurses would now recommend joining their profession. This collapse in morale – together with the loss of jobs and dedicated NHS staff – will be a real barrier to delivering high quality patient care.”
Andy Burnham MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said in response to David Cameron’s announcement on hospital care:
“People have learnt from bitter experience to take David Cameron’s pronouncements on the NHS with more than a pinch of salt.
“This is the man who promised no top-down re-organisation of the NHS but then brought forward the biggest in its history. This is the man who is wasting £3.45bn on back-office restructuring whilst axeing 48,000 nursing posts.
“If David Cameron really wants to help nurses focus on patient care, he should listen to what they are saying and drop his unnecessary Health Bill. His reckless decision to re-organise the NHS at this time of financial challenge not only proves he is out of touch but also threatens to throw the entire system into chaos.”