- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles concerning the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
We may be entering the summer silly season for news, with the NHS barely visible in the papers and forgotten by broadcasters.
But don’t be fooled – brace yourself for an autumn of massive cuts as NHS bosses draw up plans to slash each area on an unprecedented scale.
More than half of all senior NHS managers are worried that patients’ access to care will be cut back as a result of a tightening financial situation, which 42 per cent of them described as the “worst they had ever experienced,” according to a recent survey by the NHS Confederation.
Thirty-nine per cent of NHS chairs and chief executives expected financial pressures to increase over the next three years, while 75 per cent felt cuts in spending on social services by local councils would also impact on health services.
Analysts are now warning of a new ice age in NHS funding, with budgets growing little, if at all, even after 2015.
These findings came less than a month after David Cameron, seeking to smooth the way to push through Andrew Lansley’s microscopically modified Health and Social Care Bill, went on record with five pledges on the NHS, one of which was that “we will not cut spending on the NHS – we will increase it.”
Our National Health Service celebrated its 63rd birthday last week. I think it’s been one of the great success stories of the past century – an institution dedicated to treating the sick, relieving suffering, and saving lives, regardless of ability to pay.
Apart from the fact that the NHS is there for everyone when they need it, I have reason to be grateful to this fantastic service. It saved my life when I was diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer some years ago. And I want the NHS to be there for generations to come.
To mark the anniversary, I delivered a giant birthday card to the Department of Health, along with other trade union leaders. And later we lobbied Parliament to ask them to join us in wishing the NHS Many Happy Returns. This was not just a celebration of 63 years, but an impassioned plea to our politicians to make sure that the world’s largest and best publicly funded health service is not dismantled.
For that is what I fear will happen if the Frankenstein Health and Social Care Bill is passed into law. The LibDem arm of the coalition Government has made a great deal of noise, belatedly, about the changes it has wrung from its Tory partners to sweeten what will be a bitter pill. But, those changes are just not enough to prevent our NHS being dismantled or to save it from those who want to make a profit out of the sick.
Labour has accused the government of increasing rather than cutting NHS bureaucracy.
Speaking in the Commons this afternoon shadow health secretary John Healey said: “In spite of the spin the truth is the prime minister’s personal promise to give NHS a real rise in funding is being broken.
“It’s not just how much it’s how well the money is spent, and today Mr Speaker is one year to the day the health secretary launched plans to ‘liberate’ the NHS.”
Healey said that rather than phasing out top down hierarchy and reducing the cost of NHS related quangos, Lansley had overseen the creation of a lot more bodies.
He questioned why Lansley was setting up the National Commissioning Board which was set to employ 3,500 people.
And he asked why the government was setting up 500 public bodies in the NHS when 161 “do the job now”.
“Why is govt wasting precious NHS funding on the biggest reorganisation in its history it should be spent on patient care,” he said.