THE future of the NHS is at stake, delegates to the TUC conference in Manchester were warned in a debate on Tuesday.
However, the TUC General Council proposed to do not a single thing to stop the NHS being destroyed, other than to ‘support the health unions in trying to protect NHS services’ and ‘monitor the impact of key health policy decisions’.
Moving Motion 45, Public Sector Cuts, SCP delegate Gary Gibson said: ‘Our profession in the NHS is in very high demand.
‘Podiatry is one of the areas that will be cut back.
‘People work beyond their hours, they’re expected to, and stress increases accordingly.
‘The levels of bullying and harassment have begun to increase already. This is happening now.
‘We call on the government to act on its pledge not to cut funding for health.’
BDA delegate Dennis Edmondson said: ‘We have just heard how cuts to podiatry services will severely affect the treatment of patients and care for the elderly.
‘But if the White Paper is carried out, what’s happening to podiatry will merely be the tip of the iceberg – no area of health care or staff group will escape.
‘This motion highlights the rapid decimation of the NHS, that will be left floundering, unable to provide safe, effective healthcare for all, leaving the way open to the private sector.
‘Please continue to fight to protect our NHS.’
Moving Composite Motion 11 on the NHS, Lesley Mercer of the CSP said: ‘The new White Paper Liberating the NHS contains eye-watering reorganisations that over time will affect every job and every patient.
‘It is the biggest gamble with taxpayers money ever seen.
‘It is the equivalent of floating the NHS on the Stock Exchange and sitting back to see what happens.
‘It will mean every NHS organisation competing on the open market against each other.
‘And it is difficult to see how there can be any coherent planning and it is a major threat to our members’ national terms and conditions.
‘The long-term future of the NHS is now more uncertain than at any time since its creation in 1948.’
Mercer warned that the NHS could be ‘scrapped altogether and replaced with an insurance and voucher system’, and called on the TUC to ‘keep on evaluating and exposing what these reforms could mean to the long-term future of the NHS, and work with NHS unions to keep it as a universal publicly-funded, publicly-provided, publicly-accessible service.’
Lilian Macer, Unison said that people had lamented the ‘end of the NHS’ before.
‘Well this time it could actually happen,’ she warned.
‘Our services will be geared up to competition and the competition will increasingly be used to enforce the market,’ she continued.
‘It will be virtually impossible to bring services back into the NHS, which will become little more than a brand label.
‘NHS Foundation Trusts will be broken away from the NHS completely.’
These hospitals would have the ‘freedom’ to get as much cash from paying patients as possible.
‘This is what happens when competition is put before care,’ he said.
‘There is no mandate, no consultation, no evidence base.
‘The entire £80 billion commissioning budget is to be given to GPs.’
David Amos, FDA, urged delegates not to support the sacking of NHS managers as a means to save money.
‘Nobody would wish to keep poor management practice,’ he said.
But he added that managers had an important role to play in the NHS, saying: ‘Managers are a revenue, not simply a cost.’
Joyce Still, Unite, said: ‘The NHS is the jewel in the crown of the labour movement.
‘It’s an example for the world to follow.
‘This is all going to change.
‘Do you really believe that £15-20 billion in savings will be reinvested? I don’t think so!’
She added: ‘The White Paper released by the government is a blueprint for disaster, opening the door for private companies.’
She also told delegates: ‘We are already seeing the impact of these cuts and loss of NHS staff.
‘I’m a health visitor with a very high, demanding caseload.
‘When staff leave, we have to take on their work as well.
‘Where are the 4,000 health visitors that Mr Cameron was at pains to promise? I just don’t see them.
‘All staff are frontline staff. The privatisation of the NHS, the cutbacks, and the race to the bottom in pay and pensions that privatisation will cause, will destroy the NHS.
‘Unite has been running strong local campaigns, stopping privatisation taking place.
‘It was said yesterday: this is the fight of our lives. Please support.’
CONGRESS WARNED GRADUATE UNEMPLOYMENT COULD DOUBLE
THERE was anger at the TUC conference at the rising level of unemployment amongst students leaving university.
Moving Motion 14, Graduate unemployment, Kay Barnett, EIS, said the motion ‘has to be set in the wider context of the drastic consequences of the economic mess we are facing.’
She said the scale of the problem was ‘considerable’.
‘By the end of last year, over 17 per cent of male and 11 per cent of female graduates were out of work.
‘There are 70 graduates for every job vacancy.’
She said there was a crisis of ‘under-employment’ of graduates, coupled with ‘increasing exploitation’, with growing numbers of young people turning to internships and other alternatives to full-time employment, not related to their training and education.
‘What a waste,’ she said.
‘It is turning the clock back to the 1980s, to 1983 when graduate unemployment was 13.5 per cent.
‘It is economic folly, under-utilising the nation’s skills base, and it will get worse.’
She warned that graduate unemployment could double and said that cuts to the public sector would have ‘dire effects’ on parts of the UK most dependent on public sector employment, where one in four graduates are recruited to the public sector.
She said by August this year, just 273 newly-qualified teachers had secured permanent jobs in Scotland.
‘Many will take up employment outside teaching,’ she said, reiterating: ‘All unemployment and under-employment is wrong. It will do untold damage.
‘Graduate unemployment is a real waste.’
Nigel Titchin, Prospect, said he was also voicing concern that ‘graduate unemployment as a consequence of the economic recession is growing’ to 14 per cent last year.
He said: ‘The graduate class in 2010 faces the toughest jobs market in a decade.’
He said Prospect had identified fields such as civil engineering, oil, gas and nuclear energy and scientific research where a dangerous ‘skills gap’ was emerging due to public sector pay policies.
He said the TUC had a ‘key role’ to play in supporting graduates who were already facing a ‘debt burden’ caused by the cost of university.
‘Young graduates will play a vital role in driving economic recovery.
‘Support their quest for work,’ he said, urging TUC delegates to recruit graduates into their unions.
Gill Dolbear, from the Society of Radiographers, said: ‘In 2009, 80 per cent of radiography graduates started their first job within two months of graduating.
‘However, recent government pressure may already be starting to have a negative effect.
‘In 2010, only 59 per cent of graduates have a job arranged.
‘Do not forget the people behind the figures,’ she said.
‘The vast majority of our students do not undertake their programme of study lightly.
‘It requires a significant personal sacrifice for many, many of our students.
‘What keeps them going is the prospect of a job leading to a fulfiling career, becoming a professional capable of caring for patients.
‘We must not have a generation of disillusioned young people who can’t find jobs.
‘Wasting this prospective workforce is untenable.
‘We must create sufficient jobs for new graduates.’