An email sent last month from chief medical officer Sir Ian Donaldson’s chief of staff to DoH officials orders a freeze on NHS spending ‘until further notice’ this year and ‘all future years’.
The email from Donaldson’s office was leaked by a Department of Health (DoH) official who was angered by its demand that any promise of extra NHS funding made by ministers should be ignored.
His chief of staff told DoH officials in last month’s email that NHS finance director Richard Douglas ‘has imposed an embargo on all programme staff’.
The memo orders an ‘embargo on all new commitments’ for ‘05/06 and all future years’ covering ‘all programme budgets (capital and revenue)’.
The email warns that any DoH staff failing to follow NHS finance director Douglas’ orders will ‘commit a disciplinary offence’.
The leaked memo also suggests that any public announcement by a minister promising extra funding should be ignored.
The email states: ‘Commitment to spend by virtue of an announcement, including ministerial announcements, is not considered a commitment in this context.’
It also raises questions about existing spending commitments, telling DoH staff that, unless a contract is fully completed, then the investment should be stalled.
Under a paragraph entitled ‘Discipline and Enforcement’, the email states that any staff ‘entering into new contracts in contravention of the embargo’ will ‘commit a disciplinary offence’.
NHS consultant surgeon Mrs Anna Athow told News Line: ‘This government is destroying the NHS. They are trying to dress up under-funding as over-spending.
‘Today we discover that the NHS finance director has banned spending on any new projects for the foreseeable future on pain of disciplinary procedure.
‘The government is using these huge direct cuts to slash provision in NHS hospitals so that the only place in town for NHS patients is the 34 new private treatment centres.
‘Private treatment centres received a further £2.4bn as soon as Blair was re-elected.
‘The only way to defend the NHS is to mobilise the unions to get rid of this government.’