60,000 jobs go as Health Act takes effect
More than 60,000 jobs were lost or will be lost as part of the government’s reform of the UK’s public health system, say the Royal College of Nursing.
Patients can expect less personal care as nurses work longer hours in the government’s recent reorganisational changes of the NHS, otherwise known as the Health and Social Care Act, which was passed this March.
Health secretary Andrew Langsley, who was responsible for the cuts, said he wanted to shift “care out of hospitals and closer to people’s homes”, so that the elderly and people who need long-term help are let out of hospital sooner. The move is part of an attempt to save £20billion by 2015 by hitting the most vulnerable members of society.
Langsley, who last year received a 98% vote of no confidence from the RCN, faced the anger of nurses again as the 400,000-strong organisation has its annual national conference in Harrogate last week.
RCN figures show 61,113 posts were lost since April 2010, forcing nurses to work longer hours for less pay and under more stressful conditions than ever before.
A national survey by the college reported that 89% of community nurses said they were working with more cases every day, leading to 59% spending less time with their patients. Some 68% had seen staff levels decrease at their workplace, even though 86% had witnessed that patients were being discharged a lot more quickly than usual.
This indictment of the government’s austerity measures meant that NHS community services were “overburdened, under-invested and at risk from cutbacks”, making for a “false economy”, said Peter Carter, general secretary of the RCN.
“This worrying survey shows that the NHS is coming under attack from every possible angle. Services are clearly being cut at both ends – in hospitals and in the community – and that is a very dangerous path for the NHS to take,” said shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham.
The alarming report comes after 30,000 policemen and women from all over the country demonstrated last week against pension, pay and staff cuts.
Unite’s head of health, Rachael Maskell said: “We are very concerned that patient safety is being jeopardised by the continuing, ever-increasing ‘drip-drip’ of cuts that NHS employers in England are implementing.
“Our experience is that community nursery nurses across England are being cut and not being replaced when they leave or retire – and this is hitting children and families, the very group that ministers say they are trying to help”.
Rachael added that severe cuts in the ambulance service were leaving London particularly stretched: “One can’t underestimate the damage that the Health and Social Care Act has had – the £2billion-£3billion spent on this unnecessary ‘musical chairs’ bureaucracy is money that could have been invested in hard-pressed community services”.
Critics have attacked the latest reform bill on the health system as another attempt to privatise the NHS, a drive started in 2000 by Tony Blair. They argue that the latest measure seeks to create a basic and premium level of care for the NHS, which will let in private health providers and withhold money for chronic patients.
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