The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will be holding a national rally in Westminster on May 11th ‘to voice opposition to the government’s deficits policy’.

The RCN said yesterday: ‘Nurses from across the country will lobby MPs on the day to support patients and nurses and put pressure on the government to safeguard patient services and halt NHS job losses.’

The RCN yesterday launched a petition against job and patient service cuts, which RCN General Secretary Dr Beverly Malone will hand in to Blair on May 11.

Dr Malone said yesterday: ‘We have been challenging the government on deficits since early last year, but they are in denial about the scale and the impact of deficit driven cuts and the results are there for all to see – patients are suffering and nurses are losing their jobs.

‘Our rally and petition are not just a call to arms for nurses; they are a signal that the RCN is prepared to take this battle to the very heart of government and fight for patients and nurses.

‘Losing nurses will affect patient care, pure and simple. The government have to give Trusts more time and flexibility to balance their books so that this scorched earth policy of cutting patient services and jobs is stopped.’

The RCN announcement followed prime minister Blair’s speech to the New Health Network, calling on ministers to ‘hold our nerve and see the process of change through’.

Public sector union UNISON’s Head of Health, Karen Jennings said: ‘Blair may say we need to hold our nerve over NHS reforms – I say that he has a nerve to sit back and oversee hospitals closing, swingeing job cuts and privatisation.

‘These “difficult transitions” equate to more than 10,000 job cuts so far and more on the way.’

She concluded: ‘We are not asking for a U-turn but for the government to stop experimenting with the nation’s health and work out which reforms are working, and which are not only failing to deliver better health care, but leading to the break up of the NHS.’

World famous children’s hospitals Alder Hey, Liverpool, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Great Ormond Street, London, had warned overnight that the new Payment by Results system of national tariffs for each procedure is a threat to their specialist work.

But in his speech yesterday morning, Blair said ‘we are accelerating the process this year’ of introducing Payment by Results.

He declared: ‘We have now reached crunch point, where the process of transition from one system to another is taking place. Four different but interlocking changes are happening at once.

‘First, there is practice-based commissioning. Care in the secondary sector will be commissioned by GP practices. 

‘The effect of this, together with the new GP contract, is to give GPs an incentive only to transfer to the hospital sector those cases that really need to be there since treatment in the secondary care sector is more expensive.’

He added: ‘Secondly, alongside this, will be a payment by results system for hospitals. This is a single tariff for major hospital episodes right across the NHS.’

He explained: ‘Of course the principal benefit of such a tariff is that it allows patients to move across the NHS to choose where they want their operation.


‘Therefore thirdly, patients are being given a choice of NHS provider.’

He said: ‘Fourth, there will be new independent providers encouraged in the NHS, of which the ITC’s are the first wave. 

‘Now this is being opened up to diagnostics, where the major bottlenecks often occur. In addition, where GP lists are full and areas are underprovided, new providers will, for the first time ever, be allowed to come in and provide GP services.’