Cameron’s 7-day GPs & NHS provokes strike threat

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Patients, GPs and staff marching through Tower Hamlets to defend 21 east London GP surgeries threatened with closure
Patients, GPs and staff marching through Tower Hamlets to defend 21 east London GP surgeries threatened with closure

HEALTH unions have threatened to strike over Cameron’s plans to create a seven-day-a-week health service, if it means cuts to the existing payments for working anti-social hours.

Unison’s head of health, Christina McAnea, said: ‘Any move to a seven-day NHS must not cost staff a penny. Come after our unsocial hours payments and we will ballot for industrial action.’

Peter Carter, head of the Royal College of Nurses said: ‘Nurses have had to suck up five years of pay restraint.

‘We are not behind the curve, we are ahead of it. If you cut the pay of hard-working people the situation will be made so much worse than it currently is. Nurses and our colleagues in other disciplines are under huge strain.

‘Any attacks on extra payments for unsocial hours and weekend working payments, would be strongly resisted.

‘The membership is quite clear: unsocial hours, weekend working, Christmas Day and bank holidays – they get a very modest higher level of remuneration. Any attack on that and I do fear it would result in industrial action.’

Speaking at a GP surgery in the West Midlands, Tory PM Cameron claimed yesterday: ‘This is not about NHS staff working seven days a week, it is about different shift patterns so that our doctors and nurses are able to give that incredible care whenever it is needed.

‘It is about key decision-makers being around at the weekend, junior doctors being properly supported and, crucially, resources like scanners up and running whenever they are needed.’

The BMA council chairman, Dr Mark Porter, said: ‘Crucially, the £8bn promised by the prime minister is the bare minimum needed for the NHS to simply stand still and will not pay for extra services.

‘The real question for the government is how they plan to deliver additional care when the NHS is facing a funding gap of £30bn and there is a chronic shortage of GPs and hospital doctors, especially in acute and emergency medicine, where access to 24-hour care is vital.’

GP surgeries are already at breaking point with almost a hundred GP surgeries threatened with closure because of funding cuts.

The Tory government’s decision to phase out a funding arrangement called the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG) over a seven-year period, has put 98 GP surgeries at risk of closure.

Compounding the crisis, a poll of 15,560 GPs by the British Medical Association (BMA) has found that 34% intend to retire by 2020.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s GPs committee, said: ‘It is clear that incredible pressures on GP services are at the heart of this problem, with escalating demand having far outstripped capacity.’

The BMA added: ‘In the current and foreseeable economic climate, with huge financial pressure on the NHS, we do not believe resources could be freed up to deliver routine and elective services seven days a week.’

Anna Athow, BMA member, said: ‘Cameron’s “truly seven-day NHS” is nothing more than a scam to tear up the national contracts of NHS staff, so as to abolish unsocial hours payments at night and weekends.

‘These changes to staff contracts are at the centre of Simon Stevens’ “five year forward view” for the NHS. It is urgent for them to force through changes to staff contracts so as to get 24 hour working at BASIC PAY.

‘This is the only way that the private companies will be able to make a big profit on the new Vanguard GP care models and private hospital chains that Stevens wants to bring in.’