NHS ‘savings’ from wage cuts!

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SAVINGS in the NHS over the past five years have been paid for by the workforce, a pre-election health debate heard yesterday.

The packed hustings event was co-hosted by the BMA with a panel of health spokespeople from the main political parties.

The packed hustings event was co-hosted by the BMA with a panel of health spokespeople from the main political parties.

BMA council chair Mark Porter challenged politicians to explain how they would value the staff ‘at the beating heart of the NHS’ if elected and asked whether they would commit to end real-terms pay cuts.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the ‘single most difficult decision’ he had made during his party’s period in government had been over NHS staff pay, but refused to commit to an end to pay cuts.

The Tory minister said: ‘I cannot make that commitment now because I do not know the full situation.

‘My principle is, I want to be as generous as possible, providing that no decision I take as health secretary means that we will end up having fewer doctors and nurses.’

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said Labour would commit to no more real-terms pay cuts and promised to reinstate the DDRB (Review Body of Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration) to make independent recommendations on public sector pay.

LibDem health minister Norman Lamb agreed that so-called efficiency savings had been borne over the past five years by pay restraint and said that would not be possible in the next five years.

The Liberal Democrat minister commented: ‘In a growing economy – with wage rates starting to rise quite rapidly in other parts of the economy – the NHS will have to keep up.’

Meanwhile, NHS managers are planning to dramatically increase rationing of patients’ access to care and treatment to balance its books, a new survey of health managers reveals.

Almost two in five of England’s 211 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are considering imposing new limits this year on eligibility for services such as IVF, footcare and hip and knee replacements.

Smokers and those who are obese will be among those denied surgery and other treatment, according to a survey of 80 CCG leaders conducted by the Health Service Journal, in an extension of the controversial policy of ‘lifestyle rationing’.

Chief executives, chairs and board members at 67 CCGs were asked: ‘Is your CCG considering introducing new limits to access/eligibility for services during 2015/16, for financial/efficiency/value reasons?’

Among the respondents, 39% said yes, 57% said no and 4% did not know.

The 211 CCGs, set up in 2013 by the coalition’s NHS shakeup, control how £69.2bn of the NHS in England’s overall £101bn budget will be spent in this financial year.

Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of National Voices, which represents 140 health charities, said: ‘It’s very worrying to hear this because access to services that people need is a key aspect of what makes the NHS the NHS.

‘It’s comprehensive, it’s national, it’s free at the point of use and it’s not based on ability to pay, so if you want to ramp up rationing then you call into question the extent to which it’s still a comprehensive service based on clinical need.’