Reject ‘John Lewis’ NHS!

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‘The GMB is opposed to a John Lewis partnership running the NHS, and so would the 1.4 million staff employed by the service,’ GMB trade union national officer Sharon Holder told News Line yesterday.

She was responding to news that Labour is planning such a move for all public services to be included in the party’s general election manifesto.

It is being sold as workers, service users and communities being more involved in running their own affairs.

Holder added: ‘People want a responsive health service that meets patients’ needs, communities and charities can’t provide that level of service.

‘This plan would open the door to businesses.

‘The NHS should still be run nationally as the public service it is.

‘Labour’s plans are looking at breaking up the NHS, not bringing it closer to the people.

‘The NHS is our greatest asset, the GMB would implore Labour not to let businesses and charities in.’

A public sector union Unison spokesperson said: ‘It is a long way to go before the manifesto is drawn up. Unison will be clear what we want in the manifesto. This will not include privatisation of the public sector.’

A British Medical Association (BMA) spokesperson said: ‘We’d need much more detail about these plans.

‘However, government health policy is already driven by a determination to impose a commercial model on the NHS.

‘This has had disastrous consequences, and while we are in favour of more power for patients and staff, we are concerned by the implication that this is best achieved by importing ways of working from the for-profit sector.’

Speaking in a personal capacity, BMA Council member, consultant surgeon Mrs Anna Athow said:

‘These new proposals by the labour government to “resuscitate some of the ways services were run before 1945’’ have to be totally rejected.

‘Before 1945 acute specialist healthcare was provided by voluntary hospitals, which were privately owned and depended on charitable donations to survive.

‘They were always short of funding and there were far too few of them.

‘You cannot provide a universal health service on charity.

‘Before 1945 half the population had no access to specialist care.

‘This “paring back the state’’ and “encouraging social enterprise’’ is a way of getting the public used to the £20 billion funding cuts they have planned, and handing over the NHS to the private sector.

‘Social enterprises and Foundation Trust mutuals may start as not for profit entities, but in order to survive they have to run as businesses.

‘They are just the stepping stones to private businesses or closure.

‘This Labour government is preparing the way for the return of the Tories.

‘The trade unions must fight for the maintenance of full state funding of our public services.’

l Commenting on the announcement by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NWC) that all new nurses should be educated to degree level from 2013, Unison Head of Nursing Gail Adams said: ‘Investment in secondary and higher education has led to more and more students undertaking a degree.

‘However, the average age of a student nurse is currently 28.

‘We need to do more to attract students into nursing and midwifery.

‘The key to achieving this is by supporting students financially while they undertake their course, 50 per cent of which is spent in clinical placements working shifts.

‘Unless we fix this current problem, we will not achieve a successful move to a graduate profession.

‘Our existing staff are vital to us, irrespective of their level of academia.

‘We must send a clear message to them to show that we value their role and the vital contribution they make to higher quality care.

‘Some nurses are apprehensive about this move because they are fearful it will lead to a drop in the number of registered nurses and a move to supervisory care, rather than the deliverer of direct care.

‘Nurses won’t thank us for this because, time and time again, our surveys show us that they get the greatest reward from the time they spend with their patients.’