Health Secretary Lansley’s decision to push ahead with the coalition’s massive attack on the NHS, in the teeth of fierce opposition, is ‘a big mistake’, warned public sector union Unison yesterday.
The union is ‘disgusted’ at the government’s ‘failure to stick to its election pledge of no more top-down NHS reorganisations’ and is calling for the government to see sense.
Karen Jennings, Unison Head of Health, said: ‘This unnecessary, badly-timed, ill-thought through and damaging NHS reorganisation, is Lansley’s vanity project.
‘The timing for this re-organisation could not be worse. The combination of this major re-organisation alongside the £20bn demanded by the government in efficiency savings, creates a lethal cocktail that is a danger to patients.
‘By forging ahead with his plans in the teeth of fierce opposition from leading health experts, patient groups, staff, unions and GPs themselves, he is showing an utter disregard for the long term future of the NHS.’
Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at doctors’ union, the BMA, said: ‘There is little evidence in this response that the government is genuinely prepared to engage with constructive criticism of its plans for the NHS.
‘Most of the major concerns that doctors and many others have raised about the White Paper seem, for the most part, to have been disregarded.
‘The response completely fails to acknowledge that proposals to increase competition in the NHS will make it harder for staff to work more co-operatively.
‘While we still believe that clinician-led commissioning can improve patient care, this document does not provide assurance that it will be implemented effectively.
‘The government also seems to have ignored the warnings of the BMA and many others about the pace and scale of these reforms.
‘Given the latest inflation figures, we do not accept the government’s claim that it is increasing real terms funding for the NHS.
‘The stated three per cent “increase” in funding for Primary Care Trusts includes £1 billion already announced to cover additional social care responsibilities and masks the fact that hospitals will have to do a lot more work to achieve the same income.
‘Patients across the country are already discovering that local services are being rationed to achieve efficiency savings, and there are likely to be further NHS cuts on a scale we have not seen for many years.
‘The BMA will consider the government’s response in detail, but our initial reaction is that they seem committed to charging forward with these changes despite the warnings and despite the risks.’