NHS BUDGET CUTS PLAN – condemned by UNISON trade union

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North east London Council of Action demonstration in Enfield last June against the closure of Chase Farm Hospital and all cuts to the NHS budget
North east London Council of Action demonstration in Enfield last June against the closure of Chase Farm Hospital and all cuts to the NHS budget

Public sector union Unison yesterday condemned government plans to incorporate donations from charities into NHS budgets.

It is estimated the move will deprive cash-strapped NHS trusts of millions of pounds.

The Charities Commission, which regulates charities, said the accounting move, due to come into force in April was meant to be for private companies and not the public sector.

A Unison spokeswoman told News Line: ‘The NHS and all public services should not have to rely on charities to provide essential services.

‘Any charitable donations should be to provide something over and above what budgets would allow.

‘They should not be taken as part of NHS budgets. The government’s move would mean cuts.

‘It would mean hospitals would not be able to use charitable donations to provide something extra, such as expensive scanning equipment.

‘It will also dissuade people from donating to charities.’

The Charity Commission expressed concerns the Government could use the assets held by hospital charities as a way to cut funding.

Under the rules, brought in by the Treasury and due to be applied to the NHS from April, financial reporting must take account of international accounting standards, including IAS 27.

This means organisations with a charitable section would have to consolidate their accounts rather than publish them separately.

In a briefing note to MPs, the Charity Commission said: ‘In our view the definition used in IAS 27 implies that, if consolidated, charitable assets are at the disposal of the public body for its own corporate use.’

The briefing note warned: ‘This could be viewed as tantamount to a form of nationalisation of the gifts and donations of the public, which could lead to a decline in public trust towards NHS charities.

‘Moreover, by including charitable assets within the consolidated accounts of NHS bodies there is a substantial risk that misapplication of charitable funds will become more frequent, resulting in real losses to beneficiaries and damage to the reputation of public bodies in their communities.’

A Charity Commission spokesman said: ‘We are currently engaging with the Department of Health on this matter.

‘It is important for all charities to guard their independence and for their independence to be recognised by public and private sector bodies, and their independence is something that the donating public value.’

According to the commission, NHS charities control assets worth more than £2bn.

Their projects can include setting up specialist centres, obtaining medical equipment and research programmes.

The commission said people give donations on the basis they will benefit patients and not NHS bodies themselves.