RCN OPPOSES ‘RELENTLESS’ NHS ‘REFORM’ – UNISON Health Conference to demand action

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Locked-out Gate Gourmet workers campaigning on Southall High Street for next Monday’s May Day march
Locked-out Gate Gourmet workers campaigning on Southall High Street for next Monday’s May Day march

A Royal College of Nursing (RCN) survey of senior nurses, released yesterday, says 13,000 NHS job losses have been announced in the last six months.

This is double the number admitted by the government.

Ahead of its annual conference starting today, the RCN polled 660 hospital-based senior nurses.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of respondents said that there have been redundancies or a reduction in nursing posts where they work in the last twelve months.

And nearly 60 per cent said that they did not have enough staff to give their patients the standards of care they would like.

Meanwhile, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis is expected to address UNISON’s health conference today and tell delegates that the union will back industrial action in the NHS.

In a statement issued ahead of the health conference in Gateshead, Prentis said that instead of ‘holding its nerve’ over NHS reforms, the government should take action to stop hospitals closing, to stop swingeing job cuts and face up to the fact that privatisation is endangering our health service.

Prentis warned: ‘I know there will be a lot of anger over the government’s NHS agenda at our health conference.

‘I will be voicing our disgust at the featherbedding of private companies in the NHS at the expense of patients and staff.’

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt yesterday had the nerve to claim the NHS had had ‘its best year ever’.

She said waiting lists were down and the NHS ‘has not had the usual winter crisis’.

Hewitt claimed that ‘so-called job cuts’ in recent weeks mainly affected agency and temporary staff and were reducing a ‘very inefficient and wasteful form of spending’.

Speaking yesterday, ahead of today’s conference in Bournemouth, RCN general secretary Beverley Malone said: ‘Our survey shows senior nurses are under pressure, under-resourced and under-appreciated.

‘They are working extremely hard in difficult circumstances, in a whirl of deficits and relentless reforms.

‘We are very concerned. How anyone can say the NHS has had its best year beats me.’

Also responding to Hewitt’s claims, a UNISON health spokeswoman said: ‘Try telling that to the some of the nurses, health care assistants and other health workers who now fear for their jobs because of the deficits across trusts.

‘Try telling that to patients and the public who are fighting to keep open some of their community hospitals and hospital wards.’

Meanwhile, the RCN also surveyed another 260 community nurses on top of the hospital nurses about the state of care in general.

Two thirds also said they were under too much pressure, while 40 per cent would leave their current job if they could.