NURSES at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Annual Congress in Liverpool voted by a massive 91% majority against NHS charging yesterday.
Delegates at the RCN Congress debated the issue of charging patients for GP visits, an issue which would affect everyone who works in primary health care, and members reaffirmed their belief that the NHS should be free at the point of delivery.
Delegates voted overwhelmingly against the resolution: ‘This meeting of RCN Congress believes that a fixed fee should be charged for GP appointments’, put down by Andy McGovern of the RCN’s Inner London branch.
Nurses spoke passionately about their concerns that vulnerable people would be deterred from seeking medical help. The failure of the resolution reaffirms the RCN’s belief that the NHS should be free at the point of delivery, based on clinical need.
Commenting, Chief Executive and General Secretary, Dr Peter Carter said: ‘Charging patients for GP visits is a controversial issue – one that goes to the heart of what the NHS is and should be.
‘Today, nurses and health care assistants have reaffirmed their passionate belief that the NHS should be free at the point of delivery.’
Meanwhile, responding to the announcement of a further £2bn cut in the NHS budget yesterday, Christina McAnea, Unison Head of Health, said: ‘The prospect of a further £2bn cut in the NHS budget is a real blow for patients and staff.
‘This government has wasted precious billions on a massive and unnecessary top-down reorganisation of the NHS. Nurse:patients ratios are reaching dangerous levels in some areas.
‘Earlier this year, a Unison survey revealed that 65% of nursing staff did not have enough time to spend with patients and as a result 55% said care was left undone. The government can’t expect staff to plug this hole in NHS funding by cutting pay and conditions even further.
‘Unison members are already angry over the government’s decision to deny 60% of NHS staff a pay increase. And we will ballot our members for strike action.
‘Starving NHS budgets further will have a significant and noticeable impact on patient care, staff training and hospital infrastructure.
‘The NHS is already under strain because of rising demand and the high cost of expensive drugs and treatments. Waiting lists are growing and will get even longer.
‘Patients won’t receive the life-saving treatment they are entitled to and further cuts will undermine our healthcare system.’